A stock car legend wrapping up his final season will race next week in the Prairie Meadows 150 at Iowa Speedway in Newton.
James Hylton was destined to drive race cars. Considering he learned to drive in one of Henry Ford’s Model T cars before he was 10 years old, it’s ironic that the 78-year-old would finish up his career in a new Ford Fusion.
Hylton announced his retirement from racing behind the wheel of his famous No. 48 car earlier this year. "I've been thinking about this for quite a while. I'm 78 and the time has come."
Hylton made 602 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts since 1964, winning twice at Talladega and Richmond. He said he should have won the series championship one season in NASCAR, but the point system was changed during the season and Richard Petty captured the series title instead. "I scared him anyway."
As for driving the No. 48, made famous most recently by five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmy Johnson, Hylton said he met Johnson once during a weekend that ARCA and NASCAR were both running at Pocono Raceway. Shortly after the meeting, Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knauss, showed up in the ARCA garage and met Hylton, carrying an autographed hat. "That took a lot of courage to send your crew chief to meet me."
Hylton has raced in several ARCA races at Iowa Speedway and looks forward to his final appearance at 8 p.m. on September 7th in the Prairie Meadows 150.
“Iowa Speedway’s one of the nicest tracks I’ve ever raced on. It’s just a world class facility. It’s got a super speedway feel, but it’s a smaller track. For a short track, it’s got all kinds of room and you can race two and three wide. I just love the place and they treat us so well every time we go. Iowa’s as good as it gets."
After finishing in the top-10 NASCAR Cup points in 10 of 12 seasons, Hylton embarked on a new career in the ARCA Racing Series, where he has made 163 starts since 1997. He also finished 11th in ARCA driver points in 2011. "ARCA took me in, so to speak. What a wonderful place to be in my retirement years."
His second place NASCAR Cup points finish in his 1966 rookie season is a record that still stands today. Hylton also holds the distinction of being the oldest driver to race in all three of NASCAR’s highest divisions and he holds that title in ARCA, too. He made his 750th career professional stock car start at Pocono last August.