Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday May 24, 2007
This weekend, the Craftsman Truck Series rolls into Ohio for the Ohio 250. Bobby Hamilton’s tenth and final victory of his Craftsman Truck Series career came at Mansfield Motorsports Park on May 15, 2005. Hamilton started 26th in the only truck series race at the three-eighths-mile oval that was set by qualifying times. The other two races were set by owner’s points due to inclement weather.
Bobby Hamilton, who was born in Nashville, Tennessee, quit school at the young age of 13. He raced at the Music City Motorplex and won the track championship in 1987 at age 30. At age 31, Hamilton made his Busch Series debut at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and finished 14th. He ran full time in the series for two years in 1989 and 1990. Hamilton’s only Busch Series win came at Richmond International Raceway during the 1989 season.
Bobby Hamilton made his Nextel Cup Series debut in 1989, but that is not what is remembered most about him joining NASCAR’s top series. In 1990, Hamilton served as a stunt driver for the movie Days of Thunder, and his performance impressed Tri-Star Motorsports who hired him full time. He went on to become the 1991 rookie of the year. Hamilton raced 15 years in the cup series for a total of 371 starts. He had four wins, 20 Top 5 finishes and 67 Top 10 finishes. 2001 was Hamilton’s last full season in the cup series, and he went on to race full time for his own team in the Craftsman Truck Series.
In 2000, Bobby Hamilton became one of only 17 drivers that have won a race in each of NASCAR’s top three series with a win in the NAPA 250 Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway. That win was the first of ten career truck series wins. Hamilton ran three full seasons in the truck series starting in 2003. That year he won two races, and he followed up with four race wins and a championship in 2004.
His championship in the Craftsman Truck Series made Hamilton eligible to run the International Race of Champions series in 2005. In four starts, Hamilton had three Top 10 finishes and placed seventh in the final standings while racing against fellow NASCAR drivers as well as drivers from the Indy Racing League, the Champ Car Series, the Grand-Am Series and the World of Outlaws Series.
In February, 2006, Hamilton was diagnosed with head and neck cancer after a growth was found when swelling didn’t go down following dental surgery. He announced it to the NASCAR community March 17th prior to running the John Deere 200; he finished 14th. The following Monday, he started treatment. Nearly four months later, he appeared at Kentucky Speedway to be a part of Bobby Hamilton Racing’s team operations. Unfortunately, Hamilton knew he would not be well enough to race during the 2007 season, and he hired Ken Schrader to race his No. 18 Dodge in his place. Since Schrader also has Nextel Cup obligations, he is unable to compete in every truck race, and Joe Ruttman was hired to cover the races Schrader is unable to run. Bobby passed away with his family at his home in Tennessee on January 7, 2007.
Head and neck cancer affects 50,000 Americans each year. According to the National Cancer Institute, a whopping “85% of head and neck cancer cases are linked to tobacco use, and people who use tobacco and alcohol together are at a greater risk than those who use either one alone.” Many, like Hamilton, develop the cancers despite having no risk factors in their everyday lives.
Bobby Hamilton Racing plays a big part in promoting head and neck cancer awareness. Following Hamilton’s death, a management team was appointed to take care of the everyday operations of Bobby Hamilton Racing for the 2007 season and beyond.
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