James Hylton: Determination Defined Memphis TN (October 18, 2006) - One trait that has helped define the forty-plus year career of James Harvey Hylton has always been that of determination. Hylton has always had plenty of determination to ...
James Hylton: Determination Defined
Memphis TN (October 18, 2006) - One trait that has helped define the forty-plus year career of James Harvey Hylton has always been that of determination. Hylton has always had plenty of determination to see things through to the successful completion of an established goal, whether the goal is a Top-10 position in season ending points or simply running at the end of a race. Once again his determination resulted in achievement at Iowa Speedway during the 2006 Prairie Meadows 250 when Hylton was on the track as the checkered flag waved at the end of the race. When valve spring problems begin plaguing the Hylton Motorsports Ford Taurus on lap 77, Hylton pulled his Ford behind pit wall and waited. Hylton was not going to just go out and run laps until the engine finally quit because he wanted to be on the track for the last lap. James patiently waited in his car until five laps remained in the race before he signaled his crew to push the car back out onto the track. James Harvey Hylton was determined to run the last lap of the last race of his career and a balky engine was not going to stand in his way. That is the definition of determination. That is James Harvey Hylton.
"I feel like I kind of got robbed in a way" states Hylton "The car was running good and I felt like I had a pretty good finish coming. Unfortunately, a broken valve spring forced me off the track and behind the wall." This was only Hylton's second DNF (did not finish) of the 2006 season, the other being attributable to overheating at Berlin Speedway in July. Hylton states "Iowa was a super race track and I couldn't have asked for a better place to finish my career."
James Hylton, born in 1934 in rural Virginia, competed in his first NASCAR Grand National race on July 8, 1964, at the .375-mile track at Manassas, Virginia. Among those competing that day were Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett, David Pearson and Buddy Baker. These men are all established legends in the sport of stock car racing and they have all long since retired, not James though. Hylton has exhibited a determination to continue on in a sport he loves far past the normal career span of the average competitor. There are no drivers active in the sport today that were competing in the sixties and very few that were racing in the seventies. Chronologically, it isn't until the 1976 Carolina 500 that you will find another driver active in 2006 listed as a starter and that is part-time NEXTEL Cup driver Bill Elliot.
"While I was working for Rex White, I begin to get the desire to drive the car instead of just working on the car as a mechanic" reminisces Hylton "Ned Jarrett let me drive a few races in 1964 in a Bondy Long car with the first one being at Manassas. At the road course at Bridgehampton, New York, I was only suppose to run a few laps and then bring the car into the garage. Ned knew how bad I wanted to race so he put a lock on the gas cap to make sure that I didn't get excited and end up running the whole race." Hylton had developed a taste for speed and he soon found he had the ability and the desire to become a contender. Hylton went on win the 1966 NASCAR Grand National Rookie of the Year award and finish second in the championship points total. Hylton states "I bought a Cotton Owens Dodge with the help of Bud Hartje and ran it for the whole 1966 season. I was determined to do well in the championship points race and I ended up finishing second to David Pearson and the Cotton Owens team".
During his career, Hylton has shown determination (and continued success) in facing the larger, better-financed teams with his independent operation. In the late sixties and early seventies, Hylton placed in the top-10 in points on a consistent basis while competing against the factory-backed efforts of Petty Enterprises, the Wood Brothers and Holman-Moody. Hylton exhibited that same determination in 2006, when his under-financed one car operation competed against the better-funded developmental teams in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. During his NEXTEL Cup career, Hylton amassed an amazing three second place championship points finishes along with ten Top-10 championship points finishes. Hylton showed the "money teams" that a determined independent team could compete with them successfully over the course of a season.
In 2006, Hylton drove the same 2005 Ford Taurus at tracks ranging from the dirt of Springfield to the superspeedway at Talladega. The car named "Martina", after country singer Martina McBride, soldiered on with James at Salem and Berlin as well as at Kansas and Nashville. James and "Martina" were on a mission to finish in the Top-20 in ARCA RE/MAX Series championship points. At an age when the vast majority of men are retired and are long past the grueling cross-country trips and 12-hour plus days at the racetrack, Hylton pushed on toward his goal. Hylton and his mostly unsponsored team trekked across the country and competed in a sport made up of competitors that were well less than half his age. Hylton couldn't push "Martina" as hard as he would have liked to at each race because a destroyed racecar would have sideline him for a few races and that would make his Top-20 goal impossible to achieve. However, Hylton's determination once again paid-off as he finished the 2006 season in 18th place in the final ARCA RE/MAX Series points total.
In 2006, Hylton once again proved that a determined independent operation could compete with the better-financed teams. Hylton ran each race conservatively so as to make his limited resources last for the whole season. Hylton's determination to finish his final season in the Top-20 was achieved as much through mechanics as it was through sound economic principles. James Harvey Hylton still epitomizes the heart of the "Independent Owner/Driver" of NASCAR's storied past. While the other Independents such as Cecil Gordon, Buddy Arrington, Elmo Langley, Frank Warren, Ed Negre and J. D. McDuffie are gone from the sport, Hylton still represents their spirit and maintains their place in the racing.
"The independent drivers in the sixties and seventies were the backbone of the sport," states Hylton with a nostalgic tint "most of these guys hung on until the big money came into to play and one by one they just faded away. Guys like Cecil Gordon left in the early eighties while some like Dave Marcis were able to hold on until 2002, but either way, the influx of money spelled the end of the independent driver". Corporate America had realized the marketing potential of NASCAR in the eighties much as Detroit had in the sixties and things would never be quite the same in the sport again. Hylton's last full time season in competitive racing prior to 2006, was 1981 when he posted a 19th in Winston Cup points. Hylton's last full season as an owner in Winston Cup was 1986. Hylton never partnered up with corporate America, he instead chose to follow his own path and continued to call his own shots. When NASCAR becomes too expensive, Hylton moved into the ARCA RE/MAX series as a car owner and part-time driver. "I love ARCA," states Hylton "it reminds me of how NASCAR was back in the sixties and seventies. It is a community of competitors that are all working together."
"I just received a call from a fellow ARCA RE/MAX Series competitor this morning" states Hylton from the familiar surroundings of his Inman, SC shop "he said that he just wanted to let me know that it had been a pleasure running with me all season. That says a lot right there about the camaraderie that ARCA has among the teams." Hylton also is quick to praise his fellow competitors for all the help that they have provided him during the 2006 season. "I can't say enough about the support I have gotten from Andy Belmont, Jeff McClure, Norm Benning and countless others during the season. I also want to thank my long-time friend, J. C. Weaver for all the help he has provided during the 2006 season".
Considering his 40-plus year record in the sport, it is not the least bit out of character for Hylton to have accomplished his goal of running on the last lap of the last race of his career. James Harvey Hylton will always be a model of determination and perseverance in a sport that sometime bears witness to over exuberance and recklessness. Any team or driver would find it well worth their while to study the career and philosophy's of this legendary man. James Harvey Hylton, stock car racing is forever in your debt.