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NASCAR: Cancer claims Hamilton

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bobby Hamilton, the longtime NASCAR driver who won the 2001 Talladega 500 and was the 2004 Craftsman Truck Series champion, died Sunday of cancer, said Liz Allison, a family friend who co-hosted a radio show with Hamilton. He was 49.

Hamilton was at home with his family when he died, said Allison, the widow of former NASCAR star Davey Allison.

“The thing I loved about Bobby Sr. so much is that he treated everybody the same,” Allison said. “It didn’t matter if you were one of the drivers he competed against or a fan he’d never laid eyes on before.

“He didn’t have a pretentious bone in his body. I think that’s why people were drawn to him. He was just very real and had a way of relating to everyone.”

Hamilton was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in February. A malignant growth was found when swelling from dental surgery did not go down.

He raced in the season’s first three events, with a best finish of 14th at Atlanta Motor Speedway, before turning over the wheel to his son, Bobby Hamilton Jr. The senior Hamilton then started chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

By August, he had returned to work at Bobby Hamilton Racing in Mount Juliet, about 20 miles east of Nashville, and doctors indicated his CAT scans looked good. But microscopic cancer cells remained on the right side of his neck.

Hamilton, born in Nashville in 1957, drove in all of NASCAR’s top three divisions, making 371 starts and winning four times in what is now the Nextel Cup series. He won 10 truck races and one Busch Series race.

“I love what I do; I love this business,” he said.

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