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Jul 12, 2013 - 06:21 AM
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Stock Car Legend James Hylton on Farewell Tour
Posted by: newsla on Jul 12, 2013 - 06:17 AM
Stock Car Legend James Hylton on Farewell Tour; To Take Final Ride at Chicagoland in ARCA Race July 21

It's been quite a ride for 78-year-old James Hylton, and part of his journey is coming to a close.

But what a journey it has been. From his first racecar - a 1937 Ford Coupe, to his last, a new Ford Fusion - the Inman, South Carolina stock car legend, who announced his retirement from driving race cars at the onset of the season, will take his final laps at Chicagoland Speedway in the Ansell ActivArmr 150 Sunday, July 21. The 2013 season marks his farewell tour behind the wheel of his famous No. 48.


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"I've been thinking about this for quite a while," Hylton said. "I'm 78, and the time has come."

Hylton made 602 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts since 1964, winning twice at Talladega and Richmond. After finishing in the top-10 Cup points in 10 of 12 seasons, Hylton embarked on a new career in the ARCA Racing Series, where he's called home for the last 17 years. He'll make his 157th ARCA start at Chicagoland.

"When my NASCAR career came to a close, ARCA welcomed me with open arms. I love ARCA - it's home to me. I have come to gain a great deal of respect for what the series represents. I still love to race, and I can't wait to get on the track at Chicagoland."

It's been a fascinating ride to be sure, but to fully appreciate his journey, you really have to reach back to the beginning.

Born on the family farm in Roanoke County Virginia in 1934, right in the middle of America's Great Depression, he was one of 13 children. Times were hard; work and food were scarce for many. His father Preston farmed and found additional work supervising prisoners who built roads as part of the chain gang while his mother Sammy managed 13 kids as best she could. Hylton worked the farm from sun up till sun down to help raise food for the family.

Then, the racing bug took hold and never let go.

After a short stint as a mechanic for NASCAR champion Rex White, and then a champion crew chief for Ned Jarrett, Hylton decided he would give up the crew chief role and get back to the business of driving racecars. And once he got behind the wheel, he never looked back. His second place NASCAR Cup points finish in his 1966 Rookie season is a record that still stands today.

"I appreciate it when somebody comes up and tells me they remember me from the old days."

He also holds the distinction of being the oldest driver to race in all three of NASCAR's highest divisions, and of course, he holds that title in ARCA too. He made his 750th career professional stock car start at Pocono last August.

A valuable connection to the past, Hylton is a stark reminder of the brave pioneers who paved the way.

"It's time to step aside as a driver and turn this car over to the younger generation. I don't want to lose the Hylton Motorsports race team. I'll be there next year as the general manager. We are definitely in the market to build up our race team and put younger drivers behind the wheel who can run up front."

Hylton's feelings are mixed regarding his final year behind the wheel.

"It's kind of a love-hate relationship. If I could drive until I was 90 years old, I would. But I need to face the facts. It's too much of a job to be the driver and manager the team. I'm excited about the future. I feel I have an honest-to-goodness chance to build my team to where we can be competitive. Next time we come to Chicagoland, we will have a car and driver capable of winning the race."

The Ansell ActivArmr 150 will follow the same-day NASCAR Nationwide Series STP 300 on Sunday, July 21 at 5:00 p.m. local central time, live on SPEED. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell will accompany raceday activities at noon. Practice for the Ansell ActivArmr 150 will take place on Saturday from 4:10 through 6.

ARCAracing.com will also feature live timing and scoring of all ARCA Racing Series on-track activity.

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