1970 Daytona 500 winner Pete Hamilton passes away

Pete Hamilton, the winner of the 1970 Daytona 500, has passed away at the age of 74.

Hamilton started 64 Cup races between 1968 and 1973, winning four times — twice at Daytona and twice at Talladega.

The Massachusetts native won the 1967 NASCAR Sportsman title, followed by Rookie of the Year honors in his rookie Cup season the very next year. But the defining moment of his brief career came in 1970 when he was picked up by Plymouth to serve as a teammate to none other than Richard Petty. Richard’s brother Maurice served as Pete’s crew chief.

He immediately proved his worth in the Superbird during the time of  ‘aero wars,’ doing so in the biggest race of them all. After Petty fell out of the Daytona 500 early with engine issues, Hamilton picked up the torch and took the victory by three car lengths over NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson, passing him with just nine laps to go.

He was the first driver from New England to win the 500 and would be the only one until Joey Logano in 2015.

Although he ran a partial schedule that year (16 of 48 races), Hamilton, then 27, won three races and scored ten top fives.

In 1971, Hamilton scored his fourth and final win at Daytona in one of the qualifying races. He was once again driving a Plymouth, but this time for Cotton Owens..

Unfortunately, Hamilton’s promising NASCAR career was cut short by a neck injury, retiring at the age of 30. 

Richard Petty statement

“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.”

Maurice Petty statement

“Pete was as fast as anyone on the superspeedways in 1970. 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.”