Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Craftsman Truck Champ" Bobby Hamilton Dies - January 7, 2007

May 29, 1957 – January 7, 2007
Bobby Hamilton
(Photo; "Bobby Hamilton" by Darryl Moran - http://www.flickr.com/photos/dwmoran/5737575738/)
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.
A driver and owner in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series circuit and the winner of the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship, Hamilton owned Bobby Hamilton Racing. Hamilton's son, Bobby Hamilton, Jr., was also a NASCAR driver.

Hamilton, the 1991 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year, may be best remembered for two of his Winston Cup wins. His first career victory at the 1996 Dura Lube 500 at Phoenix was the first win for the #43 Petty car since Richard Petty's last win in 1984. He also had a memorable win at the Talladega 500 in April 2001 driving the #55 car for owner Andy Petree. The entire 500-mile race was run caution-free and was under intense scrutiny from both NASCAR and the media at large, being the first superspeedway race run since the death of Dale Earnhardt at the 2001 Daytona 500 two months earlier. A physically and mentally exhausted Hamilton slumped to the ground after exiting his car and was given oxygen from a tank before giving the standard post-race Victory Lane interview while sitting on the ground, leaning against the drivers door.

On March 17, 2006, Hamilton announced that he had been diagnosed with neck cancer. He took part in the Craftsman Truck Series race that night, before starting therapy the following Monday.

Kyle Busch paid tribute to Hamilton two months later for the Truck race at Lowe's Motor Speedway by driving a truck painted to resemble the Rowdy Burns car in Days of Thunder, complete with the #51 and "Rowdy" decals, a tribute that Busch continues today in late model and truck racing. It was a tribute to the very unusual way Hamilton  broke into the Winston Cup ranks. He was asked to drive one of the "movie cars" for the 1990 film Days of Thunder, qualifying fifth in a movie car at the 1989 Autoworks 500 in Phoenix, in a car that was not intended to be competitive. The car was the #51 Exxon-sponsored machine, portrayed in the movie as being driven by the character Rowdy Burns.

Hamilton returned to the track for the race at Kentucky Speedway, overseeing his team's operations. Knowing he would not be well enough to drive in 2007, he hired Ken Schrader to drive his #18 Fastenal Dodge for the full 2007 schedule while Hamilton was to continue his cancer treatment. Hamilton died of neck cancer on January 7, 2007, at his home in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee with his family by his side. He also died the day before his son's 29th birthday.

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