NASCAR Cup: Pete Hamilton passes away
Pete Hamilton celebrates a win at Talladega Superspeedway in 1970 (photo courtesy of Racing One).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Pete Hamilton, a driver in NASCAR’s premier series between 1968 and 1973 passed away Tuesday at the age of 74.
“NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of Pete Hamilton,” a statement from NASCAR, released on Wednesday, read. “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 ran a double-digit number of races during three seasons — 1968, 1970 and 1971. In 64-career starts, he won four times, with two wins coming at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the other two at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Hamilton drove a No. 40 entry for Petty Enterprises in 1970. With Maurice Petty as his crew chief, Hamilton claimed three of his wins that year, including the Daytona 500. He also won twice that year at Talladega.
“We ran two cars in 1970, and Playmouth helped introduce us to Pete,” retired seven-time champion, NASCAR Hall of Famer and Richard Petty Motorsports co-owner Richard Petty said. “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.”
Maurice Petty also released a statement through RPM regarding Hamilton’s death.
“Pete was as fast as anyone on the superspeedways in 1970,” the statement read. “We had support from Plymouth to run two Superbirds, and they connected us with Pete Hamilton. He was a good match for us, and we won three races together. I enjoyed being around him and will miss him.”
His last career win came at Daytona in 1971 while driving a car for Cotton Owens. His premier series career was slowed that year because of a neck injury. After retiring in 1973, Hamilton remained in racing as a chassis builder.
Hamilton was a native of Dedham, Mass.