Mike Hembree, Speed.com
Hylton Taking Another Swing At Darlington
DARLINGTON, S.C. – James Harvey Hylton is 76 years old.
He is here at Darlington Raceway this weekend – not watching racing from the grandstands, not knitting or crocheting in his truck, not delivering food to concession stands, not sitting back in a rocking chair and enjoying a cold beverage and a cigar.
Hylton is driving a race car.
At 76. Driving a race car. At Darlington, of all places, where even talented 20-year-olds have trouble wrestling race cars through the unforgiving turns.
Hylton is scheduled to race in Friday night’s Royal Purple 200 Nationwide Series event at Darlington. Qualifying is scheduled at 3:35 p.m. Friday, but Hylton has no worries there because there are only 43 entries – exactly a full field. Unless he suddenly decides to become a senior executive for AARP, he’ll be in Friday night’s race.
Hylton will be driving for team owner Johnny Davis as a teammate to Mike Wallace.
He might drive the entire race. He might start-and-park.
Does it matter?
The guy is 76 years old.
He’s older than two of the retired drivers – David Pearson and Bobby Allison – who’ll be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this month.
He’s older – a lot older – than even Morgan Shepherd.
Hylton first stepped into a Sprint Cup car in 1964. He last raced Cup in 1993 (although he almost qualified for the Daytona 500 in 2007 – and plans to try again next February, when he’ll be 77).
He won’t be a victory threat Friday night, but give the guy a break. He’s 76. Shouldn’t he be at home watching Wheel of Fortune?
“I’m not ready to go to the rest home and ride around in a wheelchair,” said Hylton, talking from an entirely vertical position in the Darlington Nationwide garage Friday. “I’ve passed three physicals this year. My blood pressure is good. I don’t wear glasses. I still see perfectly well.
“Why should I quit just because I’m in my 70s? I feel like a racer. I’ve raced all my life.”
He visited the Darlington infield medical center Thursday for another checkup and also got a tetanus shot because he wasn’t sure when he last had one.
Hylton said he’ll be able to tell when he’s no longer able to hustle a car around a race track and that he’ll drive off into the sunset when that happens.
In the meantime, he’s driving a full schedule in ARCA, where he’s 17th in points. He was 19th in ARCA last season.
“I don’t feel 76 on the track,” Hylton said. “I guess people on the outside looking in say, ‘Well, that old man is crazy or something, thinking he can race at 76.’ But if you go back to day one, I’ve been racing since I was 18.
“I’ve never had a public job. I’ve always raced a race car. I’ve just stayed active. I’ve kept myself active and in shape.”
The last time Hylton raced at Darlington – 1993, the track had not been “flipped”. In 1997, the frontstretch and backstretch were swapped so that the new frontstretch side of the track could be expanded.
“If I don’t get confused and start looking for the flagman on what is now the backstretch, I’ll be all right,” Hylton said.
He could get confused. He’s 76.