Bobby Hamilton died of cancer today.
He was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in February. A malignant growth was found when swelling from dental surgery did not go down. Hamilton then started chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
By August doctors indicated his CAT scans looked good. But microscopic cancer cells remained on the right side of his neck.
"Cancer is an ongoing battle, and once you are diagnosed you always live with the thought of the disease in your body," Hamilton said in an article posted on NASCAR's Web site last month. "It is the worst thing you could ever imagine." - source Associated Press
I was never really a big fan of Bobby's, he was just another diver out there as far as I was concerned, but he never really bothered me either. To be honest, I began to notice him more after he left Cup and went truck racing. I started to get to know his personality more and I began to appreciate him more as a driver and person as a result. Maybe this is because he got more coverage in Truck - he won the Championship after all - than he got in Cup and I was able to see him more.
My best memory of Bobby was when he won the Talladega 500 on April 22nd, 2001. I didn't have to look this date up either, I have it memorized, as it was the first race I really took an interest in after Dale Earnhardt died. Why this race? Easy, my son was born just 2 days before and to make a long story short I am very lucky to have him and my wife still in my life after that date as I nearly lost them both due to complications of the pregnancy. So I was sitting in the hospital watching the race appreciating what I had and finally enjoying a race since Dale died when Bobby won. I can still picture his car crossing the finish line and taking the checkers.
NASCAR has lost a good ambassador of the sport. I think Bobby has done a lot for NASCAR, especially for the Craftsman Truck Series, and has gone under-appreciated by both fans and NASCAR for a long time. Maybe now that he is gone he'll finally get the recognition he deserved while he was alive, which is a shame. I guess the old saying "you never really appreciate what you've got until its gone" has a bit of truth in it after all.
Good-bye Bobby, Good-bye.