Old-timer Hylton has work cut out for him

Saturday, February 10th 2007, 6:56 pm

By: News On 6

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ James Hylton certainly drives faster than most 72-year-olds, but he'll have to go a lot faster to make the Daytona 500.

Hylton, attempting an epic comeback in NASCAR's premier series, completed five qualifying practice laps Saturday at Daytona International Speedway and was considerably slower than the other competitors.

Hylton's top lap averaged 179.347 mph _ nearly 2 mph slower than anyone else in the 61-car field and more than 6 mph off Ricky Rudd's fast lap of the day.

``That won't get it done, so we've got some work to do,'' Hylton said.

The 1966 Rookie of the Year made the first of his 15 Daytona 500 starts in 1966. He's trying for No. 16 in hopes of becoming the oldest driver to ever make a Nextel Cup race.

Hylton already holds the mark in both the Busch and ARCA series, but is focused on making it a trifecta. The Cup record of age 65 is shared by Hershel McGriff (Sonoma, 1993) and Jim Fitzgerald (Riverside, 1987).

Hylton was the runner-up for the NASCAR championship three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice in an 11-year stretch. He spent much of the past decade toiling in the ARCA series, running the full schedule last season before finally deciding to call it career. But after his final race last season, childhood friend J.C. Weaver talked Hylton into coming back to shoot for the record.

``There's no reason to retire and sit around and wish I hadn't retired,'' Hylton said. ``Work and enjoy yourself. At the age I am right now, I'm having more fun than I did when I was young.''


WICKED GOOD: Jack Roush's deal to sell 50 percent of Roush Racing to a group of investors led by Boston Red Sox owner John Henry also includes a 25 percent stake in the Roush/Yates engine shop, team owner Robert Yates said on Saturday.

Yates said he retains 50 percent ownership of the shop _ a cooperative program between the top two Ford teams _ with Roush retaining a 25 percent stake and Henry's group getting 25 percent.

Yates said he was supposed to meet with Henry before the deal was struck with Roush, but it never happened. Still, Yates said he considers it a plus for both sides.

``We're majority engine owners, so I think we can see it as a positive,'' Yates said. ``I think he loves the sport, that group does, they're just going to contribute to the sport and certainly, because it is the business that we're in, I think it just makes our business stronger.''


WHAT'S THE POINT? Michael Waltrip Racing raised a few eyebrows in the garage area by buying the right to Cal Wells' car owner points from last season for driver David Reutimann.

It's fairly common _ and completely legal _ for a new team such as Waltrip's to buy the rights to points from a car owner such as Wells, whose team has suspended operations.

But buying Wells' points doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Wells finished last season ranked 37th in car owner points, and only the top 35 are assured a starting spot in next Sunday's Daytona 500 and the next four races.

But team general manager Ty Norris said buying Wells' car owner points was part of a larger deal that also included the purchase of race cars and other equipment. They also hired several former employees from Wells' team.

``We needed some things that Cal had that he was no longer going to use,'' Wells said.

Norris said the points might come in handy if qualifying is rained out during the first five races of the season.

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