Illinois: James Hylton preview

Dirt Track Legend James Hylton to Compete at ARCA MEMPHIS TN (August 17, 2009) - During his long, storied career, James Harvey Hylton has competed on every conceivable type of racing surface, including dirt. Hylton brings the experience of 40 ...

Dirt Track Legend James Hylton to Compete at ARCA

MEMPHIS TN (August 17, 2009) - During his long, storied career, James Harvey Hylton has competed on every conceivable type of racing surface, including dirt. Hylton brings the experience of 40 major touring series dirt track starts to August 23rd's ARCA RE/MAX Series Allen Crowe 100 at Springfield IL. Hylton's dirt track resume includes 33 starts in NASCAR's Grand National/Sprint Cup Series, 6 starts in the ARCA RE/MAX Series and 1 start in the NASCAR Grand National East Series. Hylton's first NASCAR Grand National dirt race occurred on May 7, 1966 at Hampton VA's Langley Field Speedway.

During the 1966 season the established drivers of the NASCAR Grand National circuit would find some unexpected competition in the form of an unheralded rookie driver named James Hylton. Hylton, from Inman SC, had recently purchased a 1965 Dodge Coronet from legendary car owner Cotton Owens and was poised to take on the good old boys of NASCAR's top circuit. "The Dodge Coronet was used by the Owens team during the 1965 season to run on dirt tracks" stated Hylton "the car was super heavy but back then we had only one car so I ran it at every track on the circuit. The car was finally at home when we hit the dirt surface at Langley"

Hylton's Dodge Coronet was not too different in outward appearance from the Coronets that one might encounter on the street during the mid-sixties. "We even ran with door handles back in 1966" stated Hylton "underneath the hood though, we had a race prepped 426 Hemi". The 1965 Coronet rode on leaf springs in the rear and torsion bars on the front in contrast to the jack-screw adjustable springs of today's current stock cars. "Those torsion bar equipped cars were the best handling race cars I ever drove" stated Hylton "In fact, the big sway bar and soft spring set-ups of today owe their roots back to the old torsion bar set-ups of that period".

In the late sixties, NASCAR would still contest a number of races on tracks with dirt surfaces and the tenth stop on the 1966 Grand National schedule would be at the 4/10 mile dirt oval at Langley Field Speedway. Hylton had just recently scored a third place finish at Bristol TN's Southeastern 500, six laps down to winner Dick Hutcherson. The Tidewater 250 would mark Hylton's initial foray into NASCAR Grand National dirt track racing. "Langley was a nice little track" stated Hylton "it was a pretty good place to race. I ran two races on dirt there and then it was paved for the 1968 season". Langley would prove to be a good track for Hylton competition-wise, in six races at Langley Field Speedway, he would collect six Top-Five finishes.

On May 7, 1966, the grandstands at Langley Field Speedway in Hampton VA would be packed with 5,000 enthusiastic stock car racing fans from throughout the region. The fans were ready to watch Richard Petty, Buck Baker, David Pearson and the rest of the Grand National regulars do battle during the first dirt track race of the season. In its infancy, stock car races were primarily contested on dirt and during the sixties the sport had began a movement toward paved speedways. Most fans of that period were still partial to the dirt tracks and many regarded dirt as the supreme test of driver ability. The majority of established drivers competing in NASCAR during the mid-sixties were dirt track veterans that had developed their talents on the sportsman circuits throughout the southeastern United States.

James Hylton had only recently made the transition to driving from the mechanic ranks. Hylton had been the crew chief on the cars of 1965 Grand National Champion Ned Jarrett and was ready to try his hand at driving. On Friday afternoon, Hylton would load his number 48 Dodge Coronet onto his Dodge hauler and start the 400 mile journey from Inman SC to Hampton VA. Hylton was eager to prove to the fans of NASCAR that he possessed the ability to compete with the established stars on a dirt track. When qualifying began, NASCAR veterans Richard Petty and John Sears would claim the first two positions but the upstart Hylton surprised the crowd by capturing the third starting position.

During the race on Sunday, fan favorite David Pearson would drop out on lap 25 with a balky ignition and the race would basically settle down to a two-way battle between Petty and Sears, with a persistent Hylton hanging on a close third. Petty was piloting his familiar Electric Blue 1966 Plymouth and was well on his way to earning the title "King Richard" via his dominance of the sport. Sears was a three year veteran of the sport and was driving a 1964 Ford Galaxie for car owner L.G. DeWitt. Midway through the grueling 250 lap event, Sears would begin to experience problems with his Ford. With Sears off the pace, the race would soon boil down to a two way battle between the veteran Petty and the rookie Hylton. When the checkered flag fell, Hylton was blistering the track on the lead lap just seconds behind the winning car of Petty. Two weeks later at Monroe NC's Starlite Speedway, a 0x00bd mile dirt oval, Hylton would capture his first pole position in NASCAR Grand National competition.

For the Allen Crowe 100, Hylton will load his Ford on the hauler at the same shop in Inman SC from where he began his 1966 journey to Hampton VA. However, on this occasion, Hylton will be the experienced veteran as proven by his 24 Top-Five finishes on dirt. "I love coming to the State Fairgrounds at Springfield not just for the racing but for the sense of history the place has" states the avid history buff Hylton "every driver worth anything has driven the place. I feel privileged to be able to be part of the track's rich history"

-credit: hm

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Series ARCA
Drivers Ned Jarrett , Dick Hutcherson , Richard Petty , James Hylton , David Pearson