FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ga. — Longtime stock car racing driver and owner James Harvey Hylton, the 1966 NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year, was killed in a traffic accident on Saturday morning. He was 83.
Hylton and his son, James “Tweety” Hylton Jr., were en route home from Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway when the accident occurred in Franklin County, Ga., according to officials from Georgia State Patrol and reported by Greenville-Spartanburg CBS affiliate WSPA 7.
The No. 48 Hylton Motorsports Ford competed with the ARCA Racing Series at Talladega on Friday, with driver Brad Smith finishing 31st in the General Tire 200.
According to the Georgia State Patrol, the incident occurred around 6:10 a.m. Saturday morning. The tow rig ran off the road and hit an embankment.
Hylton and his son, who were passengers in the vehicle, died at the scene. The driver of the vehicle, who has not been identified, was transported to Greenville Memorial Hospital for treatment.
Born in Roanoke, Va., Hylton was a fixture in American stock car racing for six decades, getting his start in the late 1950s as a mechanic for NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White. The team of Hylton, White and Louis Clements combined to win 26 races between 1959 and 1962, as well as the 1960 premier series championship.
White scored six wins, 25 top-five finishes and 35 top-10 efforts during his title-winning season, with Hylton turning wrenches on the No. 4 Chevrolet and Clements serving as crew chief.
In 1964, after White began to scale back his driving career, Hylton moved over to Bondy Long’s team, helping guide driver Ned Jarrett to 14 wins and a second-place finish in points. He also made his premier series debut at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Va., that season, driving a second car for Long.
The next year, Hylton was part of the Long squad when Jarrett won 13 races and the premier series title, marking his second championship at NASCAR’s top level as a crew member or mechanic.
But the driver’s seat still called to Hylton. He went full time in NASCAR’s top division in 1966, finishing second in points as a rookie on the strength of 20 top fives and 32 top 10s in 41 starts and also scoring his first of four-career poles that year at Starlite Speedway in Monroe, N.C.
He won his first premier series race on March 1, 1970 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, beating Richard Petty to the line after leading 160 of 500 laps.
Hylton competed full time in the Cup Series through 1977. His second and final Cup victory came at Talladega Superspeedway in August 1972, when he drove a ’71 Mercury to victory after leading 106 of 188 laps.
Goodyear supplied teams with a special tire compound in 1972 for the superspeedways, but with a lower budget for his team, Hylton could not afford the new tires and ran on older tires. While the new tires began to shred, Hylton’s older tires held up and he drove comfortably to the finish, beating Ramo Stott by a car length.