Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12, 1970 - Pete Inherits Talladega

April 12, 1970: Going back-to-back on Bill France Sr.'s superspeedways, Pete Hamilton follows his win in February's Daytona 500 with a victory in the first Alabama 500 at Talladega.

As a part-time racer for Petty Enterprises in 1970, Hamilton again raced a #40 Plymouth Superbird to the win in the second NASCAR Grand National race at Talladega - but the first spring / Alabama 500 race (renamed a couple of years later as the Winston 500).

Hamilton started sixth and comfortably won over pole-winner Bobby Isaac. Richard Petty qualified eighth - 2 spots worse than Pete - and finished seventh as the checkers fell.

As the laps wound down and Pete cruised along in the lead, Buddy Baker tried his best to pursue Hamilton. Driving for NASCAR Hall of Famer Cotton Owens, Baker's #6 winged Dodge Daytona blew a tire with about 13 laps to go. Shrapnel from the tire ripped off the oil cooler, and the hot fluid immediately caught fire. Here is MRN's call of Baker's fire by Ken Squire and Marvin Panch.

Another driver with a memorable day was NASCAR Hall of Fame member, Cale Yarborough. He ran with no windshield for eleven laps but still finished 5th. Let me repeat that race challenge for the  Timmonsville, SC driver: NO WINDSHIELD ... at Talladega ... for 11 laps. (Greg Fielden writes in Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Volume 3 that Cale only ran five laps without a windshield. But either

Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal via Google News Archive (p. 39)
With most of the action behind him, Pete did his job and led the rest of the way to pick up his second win of the 1970 season.

Though Pete's win is obviously known today, apparently ABC's live TV coverage at the time left a bit to be desired in clearly describing who won the race. Bernard Kahn of the Daytona Beach Morning Journal lit into ABC's coverage of the finish - while also tagging Ken Squier and his Motor Racing Network team (referring to them as "radio hacks"). Kahn's criticism of the broadcast coverage of the race was a bit of a forerunner to the contemporary job done today by John Daly in his blog, The Daly Planet.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Pete is almost larger than life amongst long-time, devoted Petty fans for his wins in 1970 at the wheel of a Superbird. So many fans know him as a wheelman for the 40 who should have earned another shot in 1971. Most don't know him as a rock-n-roll drummer.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
Pete had one more win in him for 1970 - the summer race at Talladega. He also won the pole at Michigan, and had ten Top 5's and twelve Top 10's in his 17 starts. At the end of 1970, however, Chrysler withdrew its funding for a second Petty Plymouth. As a result, Hamilton was let go after only one season. Chrysler then funded Petty Enterprises for a Dodge to run with The King's Plymouth in 1971. Baker, the long-time Dodge driver, was hired to pilot it on a limited schedule. 


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