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The Birthday Boys Through The Years

June 01, 2008

Reason to celebrate
By GODWIN KELLY
Motorsports Editor

Way back when, two of Daytona Beach's most celebrated sports figures, Ray Fox and Marvin Panch, would collect their families and enjoy a dual birthday bash.

Fox, then an up-and-coming racing mechanic, and Panch, a NASCAR driver-for-hire, share the same birthday, May 28.

The kids would run through the playground area at Welch Park, and their fathers would do some bench racing (swapping race stories) around a picnic table.

"We've done this (birthday party) for many years," said Fox, surrounded by well-wishers Saturday.

 

Marvin & Ray in Victory Lane
Marvin and Ray in Victory Lane at LeHigh Memphis Arkansas - .Marvin was driving for Herb Thomas and Ray was his mechanic.
Marvin & Ray 1960 Birthday Celebration
1960 Birthday Celebration at Welch Park in Daytona Beach, FL

By 1960, when the black-and-white photo left was taken, Fox had enjoyed one his greatest career achievements. Panch's had yet to arrive.

Earlier in 1960, Fox was approached by John Masoni, the owner of the Daytona Beach Kennel Club, with an 11th-hour request to field a car in the second annual Daytona 500.

Fox secured a 1959 Chevrolet and within a week, got it up to NASCAR specs and hired a young driver named Junior Johnson to wheel the stock car in the 200-lap battle.

Of course, this all looked like a recipe for disaster. Instead, Fox and Johnson scored the upset when the rear window of Bobby Johns' Pontiac, prepped by Smokey Yunick, popped out late in the race.

SHINING MOMENT

Just a year later, Panch had his shining moment.

Some of the guys who worked for Yunick asked the boss if they could prep a '60 Pontiac for Panch to run in the 1961 Daytona 500.

Yunick, who was giving most of his attention to the No. 22 Pontiac driven by Fireball Roberts, agreed to the deal.

Roberts started on the pole while Panch was fourth on the 58-car grid. It came as no surprise that Roberts ruled the day, leading 170 laps in the black-and-gold machine.

2005 Living Legends ofAuto Racing celebration
2005 Birthday Celebration at Living Legends of Auto Racing Museum

2008 Living Legend of Auto Racing celebration
2008 Birthday Celebration at Living Legends of Auto Racing Museum

On Lap 188, Roberts pulled his car off the 2.5-mile tri-oval and headed to the garage with an engine malfunction.

That left Panch, driving an outdated stock car, to carry the Yunick banner to victory. Panch led 13 laps, including the final trip around the course. He beat Joe Weatherly by 16 seconds to the checkered flag.

According to the record book, Fox and Panch made two Cup starts as crew chief and driver -- at Atlanta and Darlington in 1961.

"We sat on the pole at Atlanta," Panch said. "We broke an axle, but we still finished sixth. He was a great mechanic."

Panch made the majority of his starts that season for Yunick and Fox, who were NASCAR rivals with race shops less than a mile apart in Daytona Beach.

HOT TEMPER

What does Panch remember most about driving for Fox? Fast cars and . . .

"He was hot-tempered," Panch laughed. "But he had good, fast engines."

Marvin drive #3 Pontiac convertible in Rebel 300
Marvin driving Ray Fox's #3 Pontiac convertible in the May 6, 1961 Darlington "Rebel 300"
#3 Ray Fox prepared Pontiac at Atlanta International Raceway
#3 Ray Fox prepared Pontiac Marvin drove at Atlanta International Raceway 1961

Fox admits he was temperamental during his many years of competition. During a typical outburst, he yelled at his shop rats and tossed wrenches through windows and doors.

He even had a fistfight with an employee, Olin Hopes, that started in the parking lot of Fox Engineering and ended up in a garage bay.

Ray Fox Jr. and another employee watched in amusement as the two men exchanged blow after blow.

In the Ray Fox biography, Hopes remembers Ray Jr. shouting, "Hit him for me, Olin! Hit him for me!"

On Saturday, it was cake hitting plates as Fox and Panch renewed their birthday tradition, sharing the day with family and friends at the Living Legends of Auto Racing Museum in South Daytona.

Fox turned 92, and has mellowed quite a bit. Panch is 82, and still enjoys life to the fullest.

Marvin & Ray help Ruby Duche celebrate
Marvin & Ray eating birthday cake at Ruby's party - the first of three celebrations.
Marvin & Bill Wimble
Bill Wimble came over from Tampa to join the celebration. If it wasn't for Bill, dad would probably not be here today - Bill helped pull dad out of Masarati when it was engulfed in flames.
Marvin & Pal Parker
Dad and Pal Parker
Marvin & Ray celebrate at Panchos Rancho
Celebrating at Panchos Rancho
 
 

 

 

 


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1648 Taylor Rd Suite 406
; Port Orange, FL 32128

Updated: June 10, 2008

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