Dale Earnhardt Jr. mourns the passing of a NASCAR legend

David Pearson, left, of Spartanburg, S.C., and Pete Hamilton of Dedham, Mass., are shown in Victory Lane after they won one each of two 125-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 at Daytona Beach, Fla., Feb. 12, 1971. Pearson drove a 1969 Mercury and Hamilton and 1971 Plymouth. The Daytona 500 will be run on Feb. 14. (AP Photo/Jim Kerlin)

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The NASCAR family is mourning the loss of a Daytona 500 winner.

Pete Hamilton, who came home as the winner of the 1970 Daytona 500 while racing his distinctive Dodge Charger for Petty Enterprises, passed away on March 22, according to @NascaronFox.

He was 74 years old.

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Just last month, Pete reminisced with NBC Sports about that Daytona 500 win.

“That was pretty damn thrilling for this Yankee boy,” he recalled “The last 20 laps or so, David [Pearson] and I fought our hearts out, slipping and sliding. We didn’t beat on each other, but we came damn close, and I was fortunate enough to get the best of that deal. When I got into victory circle I remember I couldn’t stop smiling. Maurice Petty was my crew chief. We had a big old hug and a big old happy time, along with all the guys that had worked on the car.”

Soon after the news broke, NASCAR drivers headed to their social media pages to express their sadness about the loss, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., who simply wrote, “Rest in Peace Legend.”

Fellow Daytona 500 champion Darrell Waltrip also tweeted out his condolences, saying, “I raced with Pete Hamilton in the Grand American series and a few late model races, he was a great guy and terrific race car driver.”

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Pete raced from 1968 to 1973 and won four races. He retired in 1973 due to a neck injury, but his contributions to the sport were recognized in 1998 when he was inducted into the New England Antique Racers Hall of Fame.

We send our heartfelt condolences to Pete’s family, friends and fans.

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