Panch Tours Daytona Repave Project
October 26, 2010 | 11:18 A.M. EST
Marvin Panch said the new asphalt of Daytona International Speedway reminds him of the track back in the early years. (Photo: DIS)
The historic 2010 Daytona Repave got another special visitor on Oct. 25.
Marvin Panch, the 1961 Daytona 500 champion and voted one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, took a tour of the new Daytona International Speedway racing surface.
Panch viewed all the repave work on a tour with North American Testing Company's Senior Director of Construction Bill Braniff and received a piece of the original racing surface from Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III.
"I've always liked the race track but the first thing that I see that I really approve of is the widening of pit road and putting the concrete down," Panch said.
Panch said the new asphalt of Daytona International Speedway reminds him of the track back in the early years. He captured the 1961 edition of "The Great American Race" finishing 16 seconds ahead of runner-up Joe Weatherly with an average winning speed of 149.601 mph, which set a world record for a 500-mile race.
"It looks like it was back then," said the 84-year-old Panch. "Matter of fact, the only thing I don't like is that I'm not out there running. I'm looking forward to (watching it in 2011)."
The new racing surface at Daytona International Speedway will be smooth with no bumps. That means Panch's favorite bump in Turn 4 is now gone.
"It was pretty smooth but they had a nice bump coming off of Turn 4," Panch said of the track in the early years. "I liked it. You come off there, if you turn in before you get there, you can come straight across and jump over it.
"I always liked it. That was my favorite bump. I'm sorry to see that go."
Nonetheless, Panch says he's looking forward to seeing the racing on the new asphalt in the 53rd annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20 as well as celebrating the 50th anniversary of his triumph.
"It's amazing," Panch said. "There's a whole lot more asphalt down there now then when we ran. Naturally, the track is going to stay smooth. I understand it was starting to get a little rough naturally after all those years. The drivers have it made now. All they have to do is sit back and (enjoy) the nice smooth ride."