72-year-old Hylton plans to enter ’07 Daytona 500

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Forty-one years after making his Daytona 500 debut, James Hylton feels now is as good a time as any to give it another go.

With a car and engine acquired from Richard Childress Racing, Hylton announced plans to enter the 2007 Daytona 500, driving the No. 58 Chevrolet.

At 72, Hylton would easily become the oldest driver in Daytona 500 history. Dave Marcis was 61 when he finished 42nd in the 2002 race.

“I have never been able to come to Daytona with a well-financed operation and a first-rate car,” Hylton said. “I have always wanted to be able to race the 500 and not be limited by budget constraints and even though it has taken over 40 years, I am finally at that position.

“At my age, the odds against me are astronomical but it’s a challenge and I love a good challenge.”

To put it in perspective, only 15 drivers in the 2006 Daytona 500 were alive when Hylton drove Bud Hartje’s 1965 Dodge to a ninth-place finish in the rain-shortened 1966 Daytona 500, five laps behind eventual winner Richard Petty.

Certainly, Hylton knows his way around the 2.5-mile high-banked superspeedway, having made 36 career starts at Daytona, including 15 in the Daytona 500. His best finish came in the 1967 race, when he was third, a lap behind Mario Andretti and Fred Lorenzen.

“I was running a 1965 Dodge that I had purchased from Cotton Owens and was staying on the led lap until I had a tire go down late in the race,” Hylton said. “I had little financial backing, I was running with nothing.”

Hylton, who had been a mechanic and crew chief for Rex White and Ned Jarrett up to that point, made his NASCAR driving debut at Manassas, Va., on July 8, 1964. He finished 19th — and took home $100.

He went on to win 1966 rookie of the year honors and finished runner-up for the NASCAR championship three times between 1966 and 1971. During an 11-year stretch that ended in 1977, Hylton finished out of the top 10 only twice.
James Hylton’s two career victories came at Richmond and Talladega. Credit: James Hylton

Hylton’s last Cup start came in 1993, when he parked his car after 62 laps at Darlington. He made his first Busch Series start in 24 years at Milwaukee in June, running four laps before being sidelined with brake problems.

At that point, he became the oldest driver to start a NASCAR race, easily eclipsing Herschel McGriff, who was 65 when he started the 1993 Save Mart Supermarkets 300K at Sonoma.

Hylton plans to put Washington native Damon Lusk in the No. 58, starting at Bristol.

“We are looking at running 19 Nextel Cup races in 2007 and Damon is a perfect fit for our plans,” Hylton said. “Over the years, Damon has exhibited that he has the ability to step up to the Nextel Cup level.

“Damon had a good run in 2006 in the ARCA RE/MAX Series and 2007 will give him a chance to move up to the next level.”

Inside the Numbers
James Hylton’s career stats
Starts 601
Wins 2
Top-5 140
Top-10 301
Poles 4
Laps Led 979
Avg. Start 17.0
Avg. Finish 13.5
Earnings $1,478,096

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