The close, personal friendship between Hamilton and Lynn Paxton endured for more than 50 years. Recently, Paxton shared his insights regarding the man behind the race team.
“A lot of people wondered why he loved racing so much. I’ll tell you why,” Paxton began. “That’s something that, once the cars were ready to go and they were on the race track, he could not outspend anybody. In other words, he loved the competition and it was something that he couldn’t control. And I think that’s what he enjoyed. In other words, he tried to put the best equipment out there he could, and there’s times it worked and there’s times it didn’t work.
“He was no different with racing than he was coal mining; he was trying to put the best product he could out there.”
Hamilton’s strong work ethic also made an impression on Paxton.
“Anything he did, he put 100 percent effort into it. And, that’s why he was successful. And he made some mistakes, but he didn’t lay there and cry about them, he moved on.”
And, Paxton feels there was another reason why the two of them were able to maintain such a close friendship for so many years.
“I wasn’t a yes man to Al,” Paxton explained. “A lot of people were. And if I thought he was full of it, I told him that. And I think he appreciated that. ‘Cause everybody kind of kissed his butt, and I … I mean, we got along real good. And there’s times we would disagree with something, and it was usually something that in a few months we would find out who was right. And, of course, if he was right, he rode it into me a little bit, and if I was right, I’d do it to him. But, that’s just the way we were.
“I was always very honest with him, and he was always very honest with me. I had a lot of respect for the man.”
Much of that respect came from realizing what a difficult journey to success Hamilton’s life had been.
“I took the tour,” Paxton noted. “One time we were up there; he showed me how poor his roots were. I know that because he showed me everything that was up there. And he’s very proud of where he came from. Now, he will also admit that he was pretty lucky. He’s the type of guy that he was always looking for a better way to do something.
“By the seat of his pants. He was just a pretty sharp guy.”
While their mutual enjoyment of snowmobiling may have helped cement their friendship, a snowmobiling trip with the duo and fellow-racer and mutual friend Mitch Smith also led to Paxton becoming Hamilton’s only driver to cause him physical injury.
“One time we were snowmobiling, and I had problems with mine so I had to come back to camp to fix it. Well, Mitch and Al came along back,” Paxton recalled. “So, I made a repair and we had to catch the other group out somewhere. And, Al’s the one who knew the shortcut. So, we’re following him and boy, I mean, it was moguls and there was a lot of snow out there.
“And, I come up over this mogul and here’s Al, off his sled, laying there. Well, I got mine anchored down and stopped and my front ski was just about ready to run into his helmet when I got mine stopped. Well, Mitch was behind me. He came over the top of that and bailed into the back of me. It drove my ski right into … I broke Al’s nose. I mean, he was bleeding everywhere. I got a rag and stuffed it up his nose. We gathered up the pieces and we kept going.
“And, actually, it was Mitch’s fault, but I got the blame because my ski’s the one that did it.”
When reviewing the racing portion of Hamilton’s career, most accounts infer that his transition from driver to car owner marked the end of his time behind the wheel.
Paxton is quick to point out that this was not the case.
“You know, he ran Port Royal one time, and won the feature,” said Paxton. “I have his helmet and a picture of him down at the [Eastern Museum of Motor Racing] in the Port Royal case. He was only there one time, but he won the feature.
“Now there were times that … Al had two cars and he’d show up and bring the second car and, if they didn’t have a driver, there were times that he would put somebody else in the car if their car broke. There’s a lot of times, Al would jump in the second car and run it himself.
“After he had retired, if he felt like it, he’d jump in and run the feature in the car.”
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