NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Bobby Hamilton, the longtime NASCAR driver who won the 2001 Talladega 500 and was the 2004 Craftsman Truck Series champion, died Sunday. He was 49.
He died of cancer and was at home with his family, said Liz Allison, a family friend who co-hosted a radio show with Hamilton.
Hamilton was found to have cancer in the head and neck 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 elder Hamilton then started chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
By August, he had returned to work at Bobby Hamilton Racing in Mount Juliet, east of Nashville, and doctors indicated his CAT scans looked good. But 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.
Hamilton's Nextel Cup wins, in addition to Talladega, came at Phoenix, Rockingham and Martinsville. His best season was in 1996, when he finished ninth in the points standings. He won his first Cup race that year, at Phoenix.
Hamilton drove in the top-level NASCAR series from 1989-2005, earning $14.3 million and racing to 20 top-five finishes.
He became a full-time driver-owner in the truck series in 2003.