Pete Hamilton, who was at his best at NASCAR’s superspeedways, died Wednesday. He was 74.
Hamilton won four career Cup races – including consecutive Daytona 500s in 1970 and ’71. He also won twice at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in 1971.
Hamilton’s victory at Daytona in 1970 came in the No. 40 Plymouth Superbird of Petty Enterprises, for which he ran 16 races that season. The other Petty car – No. 43 – was driven by Richard Petty.
“We ran two cars in 1970, and Plymouth helped introduce us to Pete,” Petty said in a statement. “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. It was great to have Pete as part of the team. He was a great teammate. We send our prayers to his family.”
Hamilton, born in 1942 in Dedham, Mass., and Maurice Petty made an instant driver-crew chief connection.
“Pete was as fast as anyone on the superspeedways in 1970,” Maurice Petty said in a statement. “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.”
Hamilton had 26 top-five finishes in 64 career starts from 1968-73.
Hamilton won the 1970 Daytona 500 by passing David Pearson with nine laps remaining.
“That was pretty damn thrilling for this Yankee boy,’’ Hamilton recently told NBC Sports. “The last 20 laps or so, David and I fought our hearts out, slipping and sliding. We didn’t beat on each other, but we came damn close, and I was fortunate enough to get the best of that deal.”
NASCAR released a statement on Hamilton’s passing:
“NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of Pete Hamilton. 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.”