Hylton's Final Ride

James Hylton

Hylton will drive a retro paint scheme in his final race. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - James Hylton will bring his driving career to a close tonight at Kansas Speedway when he makes his final start in the ARCA Racing Series Kansas Lottery 98.9.

Hylton, 79, was honored this morning in the drivers meeting, and presented with a framed picture by ARCA President Ron Drager and NASCAR President Mike Helton.

"It's an amazing feeling," Hylton said. "It was very emotional. Everybody that was in the meeting stood up and applauded me, and it doesn't get any better than that."

The garage area came together to not only honor Hylton but help him get a competitive car with the assistance of Empire Racing. Hylton heard rumors for the past two months about the car, but didn't get the facts until a week-and-a-half ago.

"There's nothing I can say about this (other) than, 'What a way to go,' " Hylton said. "To end my season at a racetrack like this with a car that is top of the line - a car that's very capable of running up front.  I'm not saying I can’t make it run up front, but the car is capable."

Hylton was 24th-fastest in the final practice session with a lap of 160.038 mph.

"It was real good," Hylton said. "We made some adjustments on it.  The car right now is very, very comfortable driving.  We're in pretty good shape."

Another surprise for Hylton was the car carrying a retro paint scheme thanks to the help of CGS Imaging.

"That's the 1966 paint scheme I had when I won Cup Rookie of the Year," Hylton said. "Getting it back, I'm wondering why I got rid of that scheme."

Hylton said the biggest accomplishment of his racing career came at the Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in 1970.

"I won the race at Richmond when they ran 500 laps," Hylton said. "I beat Richard Petty by 15-and-a-half seconds.  I'm not saying that to be bragging, but I beat 'The King' one time."

Hylton shares the same car number as five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

"It's awesome, and I think Earl (Barban) is even spotting for him tonight," Johnson said. "Every time I see him out there in that '48,' it puts a big smile on my face.  At 79, it's amazing.  He's truly passionate and loves our sport, and it's nice to see him out there one last time."

After spending six decades in racing, Hylton still doesn't know how he'll feel when he climbs out of his racecar for the final time.

"First thing, I will have to get over the shock," Hylton said. "I've worked like this since 1959, working on (cars for) Rex White and Ned Jarrett.  I've run over 600 races in NASCAR. To just give it up cold ... I know I've really thought about how to appreciate how that’s going to feel. If I'm able to finish this race, I'll probably shed some tears and not be ashamed."

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