Pictures from ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images
At the age of 74, former NASCAR driver Pete Hamilton passes away on March 22nd, 2017. Pete was the winner of the Daytona 500 in 1970 for Petty Enterprises, and leaves behind many adoring fans, and a helluva legacy.
Hamilton had four career wins during a run that lasted six seasons, and included 64 starts in what’s now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In 1968, he won the series’ title of Rookie of the Year.
Before retiring due to a neck injury, Hamilton won twice at Daytona, and twice at Talladega while driving for Petty Enterprises. He had 26 top-five finishes, and 33 top-10 finishes in his career.It was during the 1970 Daytona win that Hamilton became a hero. By this time, Richard Petty was already rising to the top, and had won two of his seven career Daytona 500 wins.
Petty was a favorite to win this one in his No. 43 Superbird. His new teammate, Pete Hamilton from New England would join him on the track in his No. 40 Superbird — Hamilton’s car was distinguishable from Petty’s by the red 7-Up decal on the rear.
The 1970 battle for the win at the Daytona 500 turned brutal with carnage chasing the drivers around the track. Hamilton’s team mate, Petty, lost an engine on the 7th lap and finished 39th. By the end of the race, 17 drivers would experience mechanical failure of some kind.
That’s not to credit the other driver’s failures for Hamilton’s win, because he took down some very respectable competitors. He would beat out Hall of Famers David Pearson, Bobby Allison, and Bobby Isaac to cross the finish line first.
The racing community is mourning the loss of the legend, with statements coming out from many current and former drivers.
Former teammate Richard Petty had this to say:
“We ran two cars in 1970, and Plymouth helped introduce us to Pete. They wanted us to run a second car with him on the bigger tracks. ‘Chief’ (Maurice Petty) led that car and started in the Daytona 500. Pete and ‘Chief’ won the race, and it was a big deal. Pete won both Talladega races that year. It was great to have Pete as part of the team. He was a great teammate. We send our prayers to his family.” – Richard Petty
Pete Hamilton was a heck of a driver and champion!
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