Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22, 1970 - Pete Pockets Daytona

February 22, 1970: Pete Hamilton from Dedham, Massachusetts - yes, MASSACHUSETTS - wins the Daytona 500 in a winged Plymouth Superbird.

As the 1970 season opened in January, the Pettys fielded a second Superbird at Riverside's road course. But it was for road course ringer Dan Gurney, the car wasn't originally built by Petty Enterprises, and the color and font of the number 42 didn't remind anyone of a Petty entry.

The arrangement with Gurney was a one-race deal. In the same month as the Riverside race, Petty Enterprises and Chrysler Corporation announced the hiring of Hamilton for a limited number of races the rest of the season, and Pete's car was assigned #40 - a number not previously fielded by PE and never used again after Hamilton's single season with the team.

Hamilton won honors as the 1968 NASCAR Grand National Rookie of the Year, but he couldn't land a solid ride in NASCAR's top series in 1969. He was delighted to be hired by the factory-supported Petty team in 1970 and planned to make the most of his new gig.

With a team headed by Richard's brother and engine builder, Maurice "Chief" Petty, Pete didn't take long to make his presence known. He laid down a solid qualifying lap, started sixth in his 125-mile qualifying twin, and finished fifth in it - one spot better than his teammate, King Richard. Their finishes in the twin placed them nose-to-tail, 9th and 11th, in the starting line-up for the 500.

Photo courtesy of Smyle Media
Pete lined up behind the two Fords of Lee Roy Yarborough in Junior Johnson's #98 and Donnie Allison in Banjo Matthews' #27.

Photo courtesy of Ray Lamm from
Chief was masterful as Hamilton's crew chief with solid pit strategy and keeping the young and relatively inexperienced driver calm as he made each stop. Note the lack of a window net for the driver. Use of the nets didn't come into favor until after The King's violent wreck at Darlington two months later.

Photo courtesy of Ray Lamm
Hamilton and David Pearson, the two-time and reigning NASCAR Grand National champion, swapped the lead a couple of times over the last few laps. Coming to the white flag, Pearson gave it his all to dive under the 40. But his Holman & Moody Ford broke traction, his tires went up in smoke, and the Silver Fox did an incredible job regathering the wheel and regaining his pursuit. Hamilton pulled away for three-quarters of the lap. Pearson shoved his accelerator through the firewall in an effort to catch the Superbird. But Pete had too much and beat Pearson to the line by about 3 car lengths.

Photo courtesy of Richard Guido
To the victor belongs the spoils such as:
  • The congratulatory embrace from your crew chief.
  • Hardware for the trophy case
    Credit: Daytona Beach Morning Journal
  • And maybe best of all, nice snug hugs from the pretties, including from Miss Hurst Shifter, Linda Vaughn.
Photo courtesy of Ray Lamm
Parts of the race including the finish were aired on ABC's Wide World of Sports. Keith Jackson - better known for his Whoaaa Nellie college football calls - was the lead anchor the iconic Chris Economacki from National Speed Sport News on color.

The start of the race - with pole sitter Cale Yarborough setting a fast pace early... and an early departure by The King. He completed only seven laps, broke an engine, and finished 39th in the 40-car field.

And the finish - with the battle between Pearson's Ford and Pete's Plymouth.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Pete's surprise win earned him a feature article in the June 1970 issue of Stock Car Racing magazine.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Edited 2013-02-26: Here is a photo of the winner's trophy. Its on display at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville.

Photo courtesy of Cody Dinsmore at

No comments:

Post a Comment