264 hours to Daytona: Tiny Lund’s miracle win in the 500

As FOX Sports continues its 500 hours countdown to the 59th Daytona 500, we remember Tiny Lund and the incredible story of the 1963 Great American Race on Hour 264.

Tiny, of course, was a large man, standing about 6 feet, 5 inches and weighing in excess of 250 pounds.

Prior to the running of the ’63 race, NASCAR’S Big Bill France offered a $10,000 bonus to any driver who could exceed 180 miles per hour on the track. It was a hefty sum back then. Panch saw his chance to possibly earn it when the company that ran Maseratis at LeMans wanted to experiment with a stock-car race engine in one of their cars and was looking for a test driver.

But Panch, who was set to drive for Wood Brothers Racing in the 500, went airborne in the car as he headed into Turn 3 at the track. The Maserati landed hard on its side, rolled over onto its top and slid upside down all the way to the tunnel leading to and from the trck, bursting into flames along the way.

Panch kicked to get out, but the doors on the Maserati closed at the top were jammed. The fire quickly spread.

Soon thereafter, Lund and four others arrived on the scene to assist firefighters who were having trouble putting out the blaze. Lund, a powerful man, helped lift the car just enough for Panch to kick open the door. As he attempted to scramble out, though, the gas tank blew — and Lund and others had to drop the car.

Lund eventually grabbed Panch by one of his legs and jerked him out of and away from the car along with the help of Steve Petrasek, an engineer from Firestone who went temporarily blind as a result of his heroic effort.

And Lund?

He had been kicking around Daytona looking for a ride in the 500. Now, suddenly, the Wood brothers were left without one — so they asked Lund if he would fill in.

He not only filled in, but won the 500 in remarkable fashion, out-dueling future NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen.

“That is one of the all-time great stories in our sport, how Tiny stepped in and drove for Marvin Panch and won the 1963 Daytona 500 after basically saving Marvin’s life,” Ned Jarrett said years later, after running third in the race — the only other driver besides Lund and Lorenzen to complete all 200 laps.

The incident will be commemorated on Thursday’s edition of “NASCAR Race Hub” with a feature entitled, “Miracle at Daytona: The Tiny Lund story.” Check out the video above for a preview of it.

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