1970 Daytona 500 winner Pete Hamilton died on Wednesday. He was 74 years old.
Hamilton only raced 64 times in NASCAR’s premier series. With his passing, Hamilton leaves behind a truly unique legacy in racing history. A native of Dedham, Mass., Hamilton was a local racer at the Norwood Arena Speedway and moved up the ranks, winning the NASCAR National Sportsman Division Championship in 1967.
Hamilton was best known for his time with Petty Enterprises in their No. 40 Plymouth Superbird in what was then NASCAR’s Grand National Division.
His win in the 1970 Daytona 500 came with flare, passing David Pearson with just nine laps remaining. The fact he was only slated to run 16 events that year was not lost on anyone and it remains one of NASCAR’s greatest moments in history.
Hamilton went on to win both Talladega races that year, and his final career win came at Daytona in 1971, with a win in the twin qualifying events. At the time, the Daytona 500 qualifying races counted as full points races.
Rookie of the year honors in NASCAR’s Grand National division in 1968 set Hamilton up for his greatest accomplishment just two years later. He retired in 1973 to become a chassis builder.
Upon news of Hamilton’s death being released, some drivers voiced their sentiments on Twitter. In Rusty Wallace’s case, Hamilton was integral to the beginning of his career.
Really saddened to hear about Pete. He taught us all so much. I wouldn't be where I am without guys like him, Trickle & Bobby Allison. https://t.co/Hx77ePGub0
— Rusty Wallace (@RustyWallace) March 22, 2017
NASCAR also released a statement.
“NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of Pete Hamilton,” the statement reads. “Hamilton’s career may seem relatively brief at first glance, but a careful study of the gentleman racer makes it abundantly clear that Hamilton achieved excellence during his extraordinary tenure in NASCAR. Hamilton captured the NASCAR National Sportsman championship in 1967, the premier series Rookie of the Year Award in 1968 and an abundance of victories throughout a variety of NASCAR-sanctioned series. But, of course, he will be remembered most fondly for his stirring victory in the 1970 Daytona 500 while driving for the iconic Petty Enterprises race team. And for that, his legend will live forever.”
Hamilton was inducted to the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 1998. He was a member of their first class of inductees. Funeral arrangements are still forthcoming and this article will be updated when they are made available.
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