Racing a young person's sport


Some mornings begin with tears racing down my cheeks, and that's even before I look in a mirror.

It happens when Willard Scott on NBC's "Today" show salutes folks having birthdays of at least 100 years. Often, their stories make me cry.

"Esmeralda turns 105 today and plans to run a half-marathon before her next birthday."

Willard, you can scratch her off next year's Smucker's birthday list.

"Elroy credits living 109 years to chasing women he lives with at the Last Stop Nursing Home."

If you're 109 and chasing someone 40 years younger, does that make you a pervert?

Just wondering.

There are some things people over 70 shouldn't do, though, and it's not limited to running 13 miles and skirt-chasing while trying to hold up your Depends.

At the top of that list is posing nude.

Not too far below is driving race cars.

Two old chaps come to mind regarding the latter. They should be honored for what they've accomplished at high speeds, but they should not be allowed to continue doing it.

James Hylton is 74 and wants to compete in one more NASCAR Sprint Cup race. He won two Cup races in the early 1970s, his only wins in 601 tries over 27 years.

Chris "The Golden Greek" Karamesines is 77 and occasionally races his Top Fuel dragster on the NHRA pro tour. Two weeks ago, he tried but failed to qualify for the NHRA Full Throttle Series event in Gainesville, Fla.

Professional racing series need restrictions on people older than 65 who want only to race and not try to win. The memories -- and bodies -- of those seniors need to be kept intact.

Racing, like posing nude, is a young person's game.

Hylton's 700-horsepower stock car would race on the track with 42 others at 200 mph; Karamesines would be racing against only one other Top Fuel dragster but at more than 300 mph.

They certainly have enough memories to last several lifetimes.

Hylton, NASCAR's top rookie in 1966, stood by two years ago as a broken part kept him from trying to qualify for the Daytona 500. He tried again early last month, but mechanical problems prevented him from getting onto the track.

He wants the record for oldest starter in a Cup race, which is 65 and is shared by Jim Fitzgerald and Hershel McGriff.

"One more Cup race," Hylton recently told NASCAR.com. "I want that record. I've put my whole life into this thing, and I feel like I'm still capable of doing it. "

Hylton, of Inman, S.C., still competes in ARCA, a regional stock car series and proving ground for much younger racers. His best finish was 19th last year, and he plans to race in the series this year.

Karamesines, honored as one of the top 50 drivers in NHRA history, never has won a drag racing national title. The Chicagoan is the first to unofficially reach 200 mph in the quarter mile. He did that in the early 1960s and since has topped 300.

He's certain to race more this year, especially in early June at an NHRA event near his hometown.

Having never experienced the racing success of these two great drivers, I can't comprehend how difficult it is to drive away from it.

"I feel like I can still race and I can be competitive once I have a good enough car to make the race," Hylton added in the NASCAR.com story.

Better to leave the sport with that thought.

"If I never make another Cup race, I can't say I've been a failure," Hylton said. "But believe me, I'm not giving up yet. They talk about having a fire in the belly. Well, I've got a furnace in there now."

As uniquely talented as these Hall of Fame quality men are, it just doesn't seem right for them to continue to pilot race cars.

If you can be too young to race, you can be too old.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com. Visit Wolf's motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.

 

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