JOLIET, Ill. – 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.
“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.