James Hylton, 83, who raced for more than half a century at NASCAR’s Cup level, died Saturday in a traffic accident after leaving Talladega Superspeedway. Hylton’s son James “Tweety” Hylton Jr. also died in the wreck.
— The Scene Vault (@TheSceneVault) April 28, 2018
Hylton ran 602 races at the Cup level from 1964 to 2009, posting 140 top 5 finishes, 301 top 10s, and two wins, one at Richmond in 1970 and one at Talladega in 1972. He raced against the giants of every NASCAR era, from Richard Petty to Dale Earnhardt to Jeff Gordon. Hylton continued to race in ARCA cars until 2013, when he was 78 years old.
Per the Roanoke Times, officers told Hylton’s wife Evelyn that crew chief Terry Strange was driving the car and thought Hylton was having a heart attack. He then lost control.
“[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. “The truck, towing a big trailer with a race car on it, thousands of pounds, you have to be really careful.”
As an owner, Hylton ran cars in 638 Cup-level events, from 1968 to 1993. He also fielded cars in 413 ARCA events, and had one victorious car, driven by Kirk Shelmerdine at Charlotte in 2003. Hylton was at Talladega to watch his ARCA team race on Friday evening — driver Brad Smith had to withdraw from the race without even finishing a lap because of oil pressure problems — then left for his home in South Carolina late Friday evening.
The wreck occurred on Interstate 85 northeast of Atlanta, and photos of the wreckage began showing up on Twitter soon afterward.
#GRIDLOCKALERT for those in NE GA: I-85/nb left lane blocked with serious crash investigation just n of Hwy 320 (exit 164) …take Hwy 51, to Hwy 59, to Hwy 320. #ATLtraffic (No I’m not driving). pic.twitter.com/Pjx1t7aAV7
— Fireball Turnbull (@DougTurnbull) April 28, 2018