(June 19, 2008) – Being able to compete in the nighttime running Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola Independence Day holiday classic was something that most NASCAR legends never got a chance to do.
“To be honest, I would like that very much,” said 1961 Daytona 500 winner Marvin Panch. “I wish I was 20 years younger, not only for the lights, but for the money they pay now.”
Panch, who made seven starts in Daytona’s July race with a best finish of third in 1962 and 1963, admits the summer heat was tough on drivers, but not unlike any of the other daytime races he competed in.
“It was hot,” Panch said. “We got use to it though because other tracks that we went to we’re just as hot in the summertime. What we use to figure on a deal like Daytona, we would probably lose about 10 pounds of weight during the race but then we would get it right back when we started drinking Cokes and water.”
Bobby Allison, a three-time July winner, is jealous of today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars battling three-wide on the 31-degree high banks under the lights.
“My background was the short tracks around the country anyway,” Allison said. “I did a lot of the Friday night and Saturday night races and I would’ve loved to run Daytona under the lights.
“The 400 in the summertime at Daytona was really, really tough.”
Allison, a native of Hueytown, Ala., and a three-time Daytona 500 winner, recalls how difficult it was to compete in the summer in the Florida sunshine. The real opponent during the race wasn’t his fellow drivers, but the heating coming through the floorboard.
“The heat was the primary deal,” Allison said. “The crew really had to work hard on insulating the floor of the car because here you are on the steering wheel but your feet might be burning because your feet are touching the floorboard.
“I did burn my feet pretty bad a couple of times. Daytona you hold the throttle wide open most of the time lap after lap. With that pressure on the floorboard, that’s where the heat is and if the crew didn’t do that excellent job that they normally do . . . if somebody slipped up a little bit, that heat got through and your feet would sure suffer from it.”
Tickets to the Coke Zero 400 Weekend Powered By Coca-Cola are available online at www.racetickets.com
or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.