James Hylton

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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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Long: It was an ‘over the moon’ weekend for Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr.

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Alex Bowman’s grandmother Loretta is fond of saying “over the moon” for significant events.

Her grandson gave her reason to cheer by winning Saturday night’s NASCAR Xfinity race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but it’s a phrase that also could be used for Martin Truex Jr., winner of Sunday’s Cup race there.

Truex’s victory moved him into the third round, putting him one step from the championship race next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Also significant is that Truex scored five more playoff points, giving him 64 playoff points. Only two drivers are within 40 playoff points of Truex: Kyle Busch has 41 playoff points and Kyle Larson has 34.

That’s key because in the next round, the remaining eight title contenders will have their points reset to 4,000 and then have their playoff points added. At this point, Truex will begin the next round with 4,064 points and would have a 25-point lead on Busch, who would be the closest driver.

With two more races in this round, there are 14 playoff points available (five points for a win in each of the two races and one point for each of the four total stages).

At least one driver will advance from the third round to the championship race via points. In two of the previous three years, three drivers advanced via points because those no longer eligible for the title won races and took away those automatic spots in the championship finale. Last year, only one driver made it on points as title contenders won each of the three races in the third round.

Despite the advantage in points, Truex isn’t about to assume he can coast into the championship race if he doesn’t win in the next round.

“If three guys win that are behind us in points and somebody like Kyle Busch doesn’t have a win but has a decent consistent run and we have two or three bad races, we could be out just like that,’’ Truex told NBC Sports.

Crew chief Cole Pearn told NBC Sports: “You can never have enough protection. That last round has a history coming down to points.’’

FAMILIAR POSITION

Chase Elliott’s second-place finish Sunday marked the sixth time in his Cup career (71 races) he’s finished second. It ranks second (naturally) all-time among drivers without a Cup victory. G.C. Spencer was a runner-up seven times without scoring a win.

Elliott, though, has a way to go to match James Hylton’s record of 12 runner-ups before scoring his first career Cup victory.

Elliott is closing on his father’s mark. Bill Elliott was a runner-up eight times before he won his first Cup race.

SPECIAL MOMENT

Sean Bowman admits he nearly broke down emotionally in victory lane after his son, Alex, won Saturday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race.

It has been quite a journey for father and son, starting with the father, who was a race fan and saw his son’s fascination with cars. It led to Alex driving quarter midgets, then to midgets before moving to stock cars with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (he was rookie of the year), ARCA and then NASCAR.

“We bonded so much over racing, traveling the country together,’’ Alex Bowman told Nate Ryan in the NASCAR on NBC podcast.

So to be there when Alex won was a special moment for Sean.

“It was pretty emotional,’’ Sean Bowman told NBC Sports. “It means a lot for him to come out and run against the caliber of competition he did.’’

Other family members were at the race, including Bowman’s grandmother. She was in the stands and didn’t make it down to victory lane, but they talked shortly after his win on the phone.

Sunday was his grandmother’s birthday, so Bowman said he wished her happy birthday while standing in victory lane. No doubt, she was “over the moon’’ with that.

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