James Hylton grew up as a child of the Depression era, and he drove race cars during a time when races were 500 laps — and not 500 miles — and there was no power steering in the cars. In fact, when Hylton began his career in stock car racing as a mechanic, there wasn’t any of today’s advanced technology.
Fifty-five years later, Hylton likens today’s engineered precision cars to fighter jets. When Hylton began as a competitive driver, his first car was a 1937 Ford coupe. When he completed the 2012 ARCA season in October at Kansas Speedway, he finished 29th in a 2012 Ford Fusion.
“I feel blessed to be able to see racing change over the years, with its technology,” Hylton said. “Now, you can’t even have a car without engineers.”
Tuesday at Hollywood Casino Toledo, Hylton reflected on his career in stock car racing as part of a news conference in which Toledo Speedway and Flat Rock Speedway unveiled the 2013 schedules for each facility.
Toledo Speedway opens its season April 20 with the 7-Up 150 and will host 22 racing events this year, including the Great Lakes Helicopter Glass City 200 on Sept. 28, while Flat Rock Speedway will host 23 racing events this year.
Toledo Speedway representatives announced that ARCA president Ron Drager and general manager Scott Schultz had been awarded the 37th Auto Racing Promoter of the Year award by Racing Promotion Monthly.
“For other people who run short tracks to say you’re doing a great job, it makes it meaningful,” Drager said of the recognition.
Hylton, 78, will drive his final race at Toledo Speedway on May 19 when he competes in the Menards 200.
“This is my retirement year, as a driver,” said Hylton, who made 602 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts and has made 143 ARCA starts since 1997. “But I’ll still own the Hylton Motorsports team. Our future lies in ARCA.”
After he spent his first years in stock car racing years as a mechanic and a crew chief, the Inman, S.C., native’s driving career began in 1964, when he was 19. Hylton was the 1966 NASCAR Winston Cup rookie of the year, and drove on the NASCAR circuit for 27 seasons, and shifted to ARCA competition in 1991. In 50 seasons of racing, Hylton drove at least one race in all three NASCAR classifications — what are now known as the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Trucks Series.
“I’m an old farm boy,” Hylton said. “I did it with nothing, but had fun doing it.”
Hylton kicked off his 49th season of racing last month when he finished 26th in ARCA’s Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway — and he announced prior to this season that 2013 will be his final season of competition.
“This is it, for real,” Hylton said Tuesday in Toledo. “I’m done. I’m going to enjoy every minute and every lap, and I’m going to thank God for it.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.