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NASCAR, racing communities react to the death of James Hylton

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A venerable veteran who made his last attempt at the Daytona 500 as a 74-year-old in 2009, James Hylton’s driving career in national racing series stretched from 1964-2013.

Hylton, 83, and his son were killed in an auto accident in Georgia. They were driving Hylton’s ARCA team trailer back to South Carolina after driver Brad Smith finished last in Friday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

A statement from NASCAR and ARCA read: “Racing competitively in parts of six decades, James Hylton’s dedication, passion and longevity in motorsports is virtually unmatched. Hylton won the rookie of the year at NASCAR’s highest level, the 1972 race at Talladega Superspeedway and regularly contended for championships during the early years of his career. His racing influence continued into the ARCA series, where he competed as a driver and, most recently, a car owner. We have lost a truly special member of the racing family and a beloved figure among generations of competitors and race fans alike. We extend our deepest condolences to the Hylton family on the tragic loss of James Hylton and his son James Jr.”

 The two-time Cup winner’s death triggered a wave of remembrance and sympathy from the auto racing world on social media Saturday:

 

Former NASCAR driver James Hylton, son killed in auto accident

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — James Hylton, the 1966 Cup rookie of the year, and his son were killed in an auto accident in Georgia, NASCAR confirmed Saturday afternoon.

Hylton was 83. His son James Harvey Hylton Jr. also was killed in the accident on I-85 in Franklin County, Georgia. No other details were available. Georgia State Patrol declined to provide details to NBC Sports about the incident, stating a report would be available Monday.

The Roanoke Times reported that Hylton and his son and crew chief Terry Strange were traveling back to South Carolina after Friday’s ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway when the accident happened around 6 a.m. Saturday, according to Hylton’s ex-wife Evelyn Hylton.

MORE: Racing community reacts to death of James Hylton

She told The Roanoke Times that a police officer came to her door Saturday morning and informed her what happened.

“[The officer] said Terry … told them that he thought James was having a heart attack and he looked over at him and lost control of the truck and went across the median and then across the other lane of traffic and hit an embankment,” Evelyn Hylton said in a phone interview with The Roanoke Times. “The truck, towing a big trailer with a race car on it, thousands of pounds, you have to be really careful.”

NASCAR and ARCA issued a statement on Hylton’s death.

“Racing competitively in parts of six decades, James Hylton’s dedication, passion and longevity in motorsports is virtually unmatched. Hylton won the rookie of the year at NASCAR’s highest level, the 1972 race at Talladega Superspeedway and regularly contended for championships during the early years of his career. His racing influence continued into the ARCA series, where he competed as a driver and, most recently, a car owner. We have lost a truly special member of the racing family and a beloved figure among generations of competitors and race fans alike. We extend our deepest condolences to the Hylton family on the tragic loss of James Hylton and his son James Jr.”

Hylton was born on his family’s Virginia farm in 1934 and learned to drive on his father’s Ford Model T. During his motorsports career, he worked as a mechanic for NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White and as a crew chief for Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett before becoming a driver.

Hylton, an independent driver, won two Cup races in 602 career starts. He won at Richmond in 1970 and at Talladega in 1972. He last drove in a Cup race in 1993 at Darlington Raceway. Hylton finished second in points in 1966, ’67 and ’71.

He made his NASCAR Premier Series debut in the 1964 Old Dominion 400 at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Virginia. Hylton finished 19th in a 20-car field. Jarrett won that race and was among four NASCAR Hall of Famers in that race (David Pearson was second, Richard Petty was eighth and Wendell Scott was 18th).

Hylton made his first start in ARCA in 1986 and climbed out of the car for the final time in that series in 2013 after running the entire schedule. He competed in 175 ARCA races with a best finish of 14th three times. Hylton was a car owner in ARCA. Brad Smith finished 31st in Friday’s ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway.

 

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John Wes Townley wins ARCA Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona

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Three years after his lone ARCA Racing Series win, John Wes Townley followed up the effort by leading the final 30 laps and winning the season-opening Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

A regular in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Townley started fifth in the race and took command when pit strategy left pole-sitter Cole Custer back in the pack after leading 42 laps.

“We had it planned out from the beginning and very rarely at these race tracks does it work out like you planned and tonight it did,” Townley told Fox Sports 1. “I was a little worried there at the beginning that if I pulled down (to the inside lane) they were going to surge forward. It ended up working out. Once I got (to the front) they couldn’t quite get to me, which was kind of familiar to me because when I was behind some other guys, I had the same problem.”

Custer, a rookie in the Camping World Truck Series, started from the pole in his fourth ARCA race and his first race ever at Daytona. He finished 10th.

Rounding out the top five was William ByronKyle Weatherman, Chase Briscoe and 10-time champion Frank Kimmel

The race was red flagged after a Lap 2 crash in the tri-oval that involved nine cars: Bobby Gerhart, Kevin Thomas, Terry Jones, Shane Lee, Austin Wayne Self, Jairo Avila, Mark Thompson, Cole Powell and Gus Dean. The red flag was out for 10 minute and 58 seconds.

The race restarted on Lap 8. Ten laps later, the second caution waved for a four-car incident in Turn 2 with Mark Thompson, Derrick Lancaster, Matt Kurzejewski and Dylan Lupton. Lupton, a NASCAR Next driver, was able to continue on while the rest came to a stop stuck together against the outside wall on the backstretch.

Lupton would stay in the lead draft until suffering mechanical problems with two laps left in the race.

The third caution came four laps passed the halfway point when Tom Hessert blew a tire entering Turn 3 and spun out, avoiding making contact with the outside wall.

The pit strategy during the third caution sent Custer, who led 42 laps, back to the rear. That left Townley to jockey for the win with Byron for the final 30 laps. Townley, the 2013 winner at Daytona, kept the point position until the checkered flag waved.

Results

  1. John Wes Townley
  2. William Byron
  3. Kyle Weatherman
  4. Chase Briscoe
  5. Frank Kimmel
  6. Bo LeMastus
  7. Kevin Thomas
  8. Willie Mullins
  9. Grau Gaulding
  10. Cole Custer
  11. Sara Cornett-Ching
  12. Tyler Audie
  13. Brett Hudson
  14. Thomas Praytor
  15. Bryan Dauzat
  16. Brandon Lynn
  17. Ed Pompa
  18. Will Kimmel
  19. Josh Williams
  20. Steve Fox
  21. Gene Paul
  22. John Ferrier
  23. Cory Howard
  24. Dylan Lupton
  25. Dale Shearer
  26. Tim Viens
  27. Sean Corr
  28. Tom Hessert
  29. Matt Kurzejewski
  30. Dick Doheny
  31. Derrick Lancaster
  32. Brad Smith
  33. Mark Thompson
  34. Cole Powell
  35. Gus Dean
  36. Austin Wayne Self
  37. Bobby Gerhart
  38. Shane Lee
  39. Jairo Avila
  40. Terry Jones