By admin | February 2, 2014
I have been a NASCAR fan for as long as I can remember, and a significant number of my racing memories have come from the Daytona 500. There have been 55 Daytona 500’s to this point and every one of them has been historic in its own right. In this series that will run in the days leading up to this year’s running of ‘The Great American Race’, I will list the twelve versions of the sport’s most important event that I consider to be the most noteworthy.
By Richard Allen
As I said in the previous entry to this series, some races are great because of the way they play out and some are great because of who won. The 1963 Daytona 500 fits both of those criteria, but for somewhat strange reasons.
DeWayne Lund was one of those guys who was nicknamed in a backwards sort of way. The driver who stood 6′5″ and weighed in at well over 250 pounds was anything but ‘Tiny’, but that’s what people called him anyway. No matter what name he went by, Lund was never supposed to be in the 1963 version of ‘The Great American Race’. However, fate would step in and change that which was not supposed to happen.
Wood Brothers Racing driver Marvin Panch was practicing in a sports car around the road course of the Daytona International Speedway when he crashed in the NASCAR turn four portion of the facility. The car ended up on its roof and then caught fire. With Panch trapped inside, a number of fellow drivers and crew members arrived on the scene even before safety personnel were able to get there.
Lund was one of those to first arrive at the scene of Panch’s burning car. He miraculously lifted the car so that others could pry the doors open and pull the prone driver from the wreckage before the situation turned tragic.
Still, Panch had been badly burned in the accident and would not be able to drive in the stock car race. Since Lund had saved their driver, Glen and Leonard Wood opted to put him in their car. It would prove to be a fateful decision that paid off in a major way.
After their car finished 6th in the qualifying race, the ever resourceful Woods realized they would have to rely on strategy to win the big race. And the strategy they came up with was one that would be unthinkable today, but it worked perfectly back then.
“Leonard had built spindles better than anybody else had,” declared Eddie Wood, the son of Glen Wood. “They really helped the right-front tire wear. Daddy and Leonard wanted to run the race without changing tires. Everybody else changed; our guys just checked ‘em during every stop and sent Tiny back out.”
After running the first ten laps under caution to dry the track, the remainder of the race ran under green flag conditions. Fred Lorenzen, Ned Jarrett and Bobby Johns led most of the way with Lund hanging onto the lead lap. However, when Lorenzen and Jarrett had to pit for fuel with eight laps remaining, the lead of the race fell to Lund. That would prove to be the winning moment as the Wood Brothers car outlasted the others on both gas and tires.
Lund saw relatively little success come his way after this race as he won only four other NASCAR events over the rest of his career. Tragically, he was killed in a crash at the Talladega Super Speedway in 1975.
But on this one magical day, Tiny Lund was on top of the racing world and the story of him not only rescuing Marvin Panch from a burning car but also rescuing the Wood Brothers when they needed a driver made this a great moment.
The 1963 version of ‘The Great American Race’ was certainly one of the most historic of the 55 Daytona 500’s to have been contested.
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