KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The story of why James Hylton’s team transports its race car via a school bus involves a destroyed truck, a lot of good fortune and some help from others in racing.
Hylton, 83, has been a fixture in racing since his first Cup Series race in 1964. He attempted his final Cup race in 2009 and made his last ARCA start — a level of stock car racing below NASCAR — in 2013, the year he turned 79.
The two-time Cup Series winner still fields an ARCA car and was driving back from Iowa Speedway east on Interstate 40 in Tennessee on Sunday, July 9, when Hylton fell asleep.
He was behind the wheel. His son James Hylton Jr. and team member Terry Strange were also in the truck.
“It’s unbelievable,” James Hylton told Yahoo Sports. “Run off the interstate on the left side. Went down a huge embankment, up the other side of the bank, tore down the guardrail … we wound up upside down in the westbound interstate.”
And in the path of oncoming traffic.
“On Interstate 40 it’s bumper to bumper,” Hylton said before showing a gnarly scab on his left arm that remains as visible evidence of the accident. “Unbelievable that this truck and trailer used up all the highway on the westbound side, tore the guardrail down. And never touched nobody.”
But other than the cut on his arm, Hylton, his son and Strange were all OK and climbed out of the truck after the wreck.
The heavy-duty pickup and the trailer, however, were not. The truck had severe damage, while Hylton said the trailer was totaled. The race car inside the trailer was damaged, too.
Not every race team is backed by a millionaire sponsor. Especially not in ARCA, which provides a mix of sponsored young drivers trying to make a name for themselves in racing with veterans and teams racing for the love of it and the hope of a top-10 finish.
Hylton’s team fits into the latter category. With the next ARCA race 12 days after the crash, the team was in a pinch. Johnny Davis, who owns a team in the Xfinity Series, sent a hauler up to Tennessee to get the team’s car back to the team’s shop in Inman, South Carolina. And Davis also loaned them a truck and a trailer.
But that was a temporary solution. Here’s where Enter Sean Corr and his dad John. Sean has driven for Hylton and John owns the Trans Group, a bus transportation company.
“Sean called me,” Hylton explained, “and said, ‘I’ve got a school bus that you can have,’ and I asked ‘How much you want for it’ and he said ‘Take it and see if it’ll work for you and get you going again and it’s a donation.’ ”
That solved the problem of finding a replacement for the truck. The replacement for the hauler came from the team’s driver, Brad Smith.
“These race teams kept me in business,” Hylton said.
And it’s clear Hylton wants to keep his team in business. It started running a composite body car this season with an eye on the future. The composite body cars are the newest generation of ARCA car and have been slowly introduced in the series as the older cars — some based on chassis of Cup cars from nearly a decade ago — have been phased out.
Smith is driving that composite car Friday night at Kansas Speedway, the final race of the 2017 ARCA Series season. After the race is over, Hylton, his son and Strange will hop into the school bus with the team’s equipment packed up and drive through the night. After all, Strange needs to be back to his day job on Monday.
“I guess our theory in Hylton Motorsports is we don’t give up,” Hylton said. “Most people may say to heck with it, I’ll go get me a job, do something. But refuse to die.”
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