Bobby Hamilton's biggest break in NASCAR racing came when he was tabbed to drive a camera car for the movie Days of Thunder. It was in the fall of 1989 at Phoenix and he was in a chevrolet owned by Rick Hendrick. While the movie wasn't very good, it did introduce Tom Cruise to Nicole Kidman and give Bobby Hamilton his first big NASCAR break.
For the movie, NASCAR required that the car be race-legal, even though it wasn't going to run many laps. Hamilton qualified it fifth and was running better than some people thought he should have. In fact, he led once for five laps and was among the top 10 until the film's producer told NASCAR he had enough footage. At that, NASCAR told the Hendrick team to tell Hamilton to park it.
The race was Hamilton's first Winston Cup start. He was credited with finishing 32nd after completing 215 of the 300 laps around the 1-mile track. The year after the Days of Thunder gig, Hamilton ran a handful of Winston Cup races for George Bradshaw, the the full '91 (when he was Rookie of the Year) and '92 seasons for Bradshaw. He spent '93 with three Cup teams before latching on with Felix Sabates for the '94 season. That led to three years with Petty before his 1998 move to the Morgan-McClure team. Ironically, while racing for Petty, Hamilton's first NASCAR Winston Cup victory also came at Phoenix in the fall of '96.
"I had no idea the movie deal would work out like it did," Hamilton said. "Darrell Waltrip had recommended me to Rick for that one race, but that opened some people's eyes. I could have finished better than I did if they'd left me out there, but all in all, it worked out pretty good." From Decades of Racing