1970 Daytona 500 champion Pete Hamilton passes away

Editor’s note: Former NASCAR driver Pete Hamilton passed away Tuesday at the age of 74. This was written about his 1970 Daytona 500 victory in December 2016.

The ’70 season was the absolute height of the NASCAR aero wars. From the Chrysler camp, there were the Plymouth Superbirds and Dodge Daytonas, each with high wings in back and sharply beveled noses, both to control the flow of air around the cars.

A trail of winged Dodge Daytonas and a couple of Fords make their way around Daytona International Speedway during the 1970 Daytona 500. Veterans Buddy Baker (6), Charlie Glotzbach (99), A.J. Foyt (11), Bobby Allison (22), Tiny Lund (55), Ray Elder (96), and Jim Hurtubise (59) lost race to newcomer Pete Hamilton in a winged Plymouth Superbird. (Photo by RacingOne/Getty Images)
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Ford Motor Co. countered with the Torino Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler, which while they lacked the big rear wings of their Mopar counterparts, had specially elongated noses to cheat the wind.

By the time 1970 rolled around, Richard Petty had already won two of what would become his record seven Daytona 500s and came in as one of the favorites. Petty piloted the No. 43 Superbird with a new teammate in New England racer Pete Hamilton, from Dedham, Mass.

Hamilton piloted the No. 40 Petty Enterprises Superbird, with Petty’s brother and future NASCAR Hall of Fame member Maurice as the crew chief on the No. 40. Aside from the numbers, Hamilton’s car was distinguishable from Petty’s because it carried a prominent red 7-Up decal on the rear quarter panel, which the No. 43 lacked.

The ’70 Daytona 500 turned into a surprisingly brutal war of attrition, with the carnage starting early.

Petty lost an engine on Lap 7 and finished 39th, two spots behind pole-sitter Cale Yarborough, who saw the engine in his Wood Brothers Mercury give up the ghost on Lap 31.

Richard Petty takes his No. 43 back to pit road after blowing an engine in the 1970 Daytona 500 (Getty Images)
ISC Archives via Getty Images/RacingOne

Donnie Allison, A.J. Foyt and second-qualifier Buddy Baker were among the 17 drivers who saw their cars fail to go the distance because of mechanical maladies of one sort or another.

Hamilton, however, was able to take the checkered flag ahead of NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson and Bobby Allison, with another Hall member, Bobby Isaac, fifth behind Charlie Glotzbach.

Hamilton celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the 1970 Daytona 500. (Getty Images)
ISC Archives via Getty Images/RacingOne

Later that season, Hamilton would sweep both Talladega races in the Petty Blue No. 40, giving him three victories in just 16 starts that year.

Hamilton would win just one more Premier Series race, a Daytona 500 qualifier in 1971 in a Cotton Owens-owned Dodge. He would retire in 1973 because of a neck injury, having made only 64 career starts.

But in the 1970 Daytona 500, it was Hamilton who reigned and not his teammate, “The King.”

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