Nick Hamilton Transforms Difficult Start into Rumble Triumph
By Jessica Jenkins
Returning to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum following second and sixth place finishes in 2016, Nick Hamilton was set to take part in the Rumble in Fort Wayne. Hamilton and his family-owned #32 Curtis Motor Sales midget team branched out into dirt racing over 2017, so taking to the 1/7th-mile paved surface in Fort Wayne was like coming home for the twenty year old.
Despite knowing he could once more take home the results of a year earlier, Thursday's first practice session immediately set the Hamilton Racing team behind. Wheeling off into turn three on his first lap, the throttle stuck to send Hamilton straight into the barrier. Immediately diagnosing the problem and getting to work, Hamilton and his father fixed the car up in time for the second practice session.
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Feeling some of the effects from catching the wall on Thursday, Hamilton climbed aboard his black #32 for a run at claiming a top spot in qualifying Friday. But it wasn't to be as a broken throttle cable caused him to slow on lap one. Once more repairing his car, the Indiana native rolled out eighth for the third heat race knowing he needed to make it into the Feature or else start at the back for the Semi. Firing into turn one right after the green it looked like his night took yet another bad turn when two competitors collided just ahead of him, leaving the younger Hamilton brother with nowhere to go. Pushing back off in seventh, he didn't stay back long and by a yellow halfway through the ten lap heat he was up to fourth. Once the green waved again, he started making a charge at the outside lane as cars ran single-file on the inside. Needing to be top three to advance to the Feature, Hamilton edged up along the outside of third and kept battling hard. With the checkered flag waving just ahead, he stepped on the gas out of four and took advantage of a bottle-up on the inside lane to soar past for the spot, nearly taking second place in the process.
Starting around twelfth in the Feature Hamilton had gained four positions by the first yellow just over 1/5th of the way in. He continued on around that position until a spin in turns one and two just past halfway sent him back to fourteenth. Over the remainder of the race he utilized smart moves and determination to reach the top ten, moving to ninth with eleven laps remaining. When the checkered flew on lap 50, he had claimed a ninth place finish on night one.
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With the weekend now on the right track, Hamilton returned to the indoor arena for the second night of the 20th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne. Looking to repeat the success of older brother Kyle Hamilton during the finale one year earlier, the driver from Danville strapped in for qualifying. Laying down two fast laps of 8.093 and 7.922 he took the pole at the time on his way to claiming the fifth quickest overall speed. With a far better start than on opening night, the racer that is the same age as the Rumble started second in the first heat. Staying on the heels of the leader for all ten laps, Hamilton pulled back into the pits in second spot and an immediate advance to the Feature.
The green flag for the biggest race of the night flew with the pavement star on the inside of row two. By the second lap he had moved into the lead, but a battle with his competitor left him back in second, leaving him hunting the lead once more. When the yellow flew on lap ten it put the determined young driver back on the heels of the leader. Having tasted the lead once, he wasn't about to allow first place to pull away again and on lap twenty three he snapped the lead away before beginning to take off. Driving through lapped traffic and holding control through more yellows and a red with four to go, Hamilton clung to the lead. With one final restart at lap 47 he rocketed away and took home his first Rumble victory to make history with Kyle Hamilton as the only set of brothers to win back-to-back Rumble finales.
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Hamilton celebrating with his brother and team while returning to the pit area
As Saturday's celebration spilled back into the pit area, Nick Hamilton reflected on his huge comeback from the start of the weekend. "Obviously started off a little rough, rougher than I think anybody would ever want to start it off. Me and my dad were sitting back at the hotel thinking, 'If this thing doesn't start going by heat race tomorrow, we might just head home, it's not our year'. Then in our heat race yesterday, I think we showed a little bit of what we had. We went to the top and made that big run and last night in the Feature, we got around people like Swanson, held off Kyle and we just had a solid run. So going into today, we were a little more confident. Waking up this morning I was a little more excited to get to the track. So then when I laid down a decent lap in qualifying. I was like 'Hey, we might be able to get it done'. I never tell myself I'm gonna win, but I knew we might have a chance. We were doing the little walk at the beginning as the intros and everything seemed to fall into place. During the red I was thinking a lot of things, so I just put my head down and just tried to finish it off and that's what we did. To cross that line and see the checkered flag at Fort Wayne has been a dream of mine since I was little. I watched Billy Wease when I was a little kid and I used him as a Hot Wheel back in the day, so now I'm hoping a little kid out there is using me as a Hot Wheel tonight."
Easily the biggest win of his developing career, Nick Hamilton made sure to thank his Dad, Curtis Motor Sales, Charles Holland, TJ Domark, his family and Simpson Racing for all of their support. Hamilton will be back early next year for another year of mixing dirt and pavement racing, so stay tuned to the Hamilton Brothers Racing page on Facebook.