1961 Daytona 500 Champion Marvin Panch Tours The Daytona Repave Project

Marvin Panch

Lane Construction's John Rauer, NATC's Bill Braniff and 1961 Daytona 500 champion Marvin Panch.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The historic 2010 Daytona Repave got another special visitor on Monday.

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.”

About the Daytona Repave: Lane Construction, which repaved other ISC race tracks including Talladega Superspeedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Darlington Raceway, will use an estimated 50,000 tons of asphalt to repave more than 1.4 million square feet of Daytona International Speedway and has a target completion date of Jan. 1, 2011.

Speedweeks 2011 will kick off with the 49th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race on Jan. 29-30 and conclude with the 53rd annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20, the prestigious season-opening event to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Race fans can view the progression of the historic repaving project from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands, which will open free to the public, or a track tour.

Daytona International Speedway also is posting updates on the project at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/repave and on its social sites on Twitter (www.twitter.com/DISUpdates) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/daytonainternationalspeedway). For fans interested in purchasing pieces of asphalt, they can visit www.jostens.com/Daytona

For tickets and more information on Daytona International Speedway events, visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.

2010 Daytona Repave October

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