A constant presence in the NASCAR media center, Jim Hunter loved the sport and lived to tell stories about it, even in the midst of his cancer treatments. After a year-long battle with the illness, NASCAR lost one of its most beloved leaders and Jim Hunter passed away at the age of 71 years.
“Jim Hunter was one of NASCAR’s giants,” Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO, said. “For more than 40 years Jim was part of NASCAR and its history. He loved the sport, but loved the people even more.”
NASCAR President Mike Helton joined in the tributes to Hunter. “Jim was a uniquely talented man that cannot be replaced,” Helton said. “He was a great friend and mentor to so many in the sport.”
Jim Hunter joined the NASCAR family in 1983 when he was named Vice President of Administration. Prior to that, Hunter had been a sports reporter and editor of the Columbia Record newspaper, as well as a columnist for Stock Car Racing magazine.
Hunter also worked on the public relations side of the sport of stock car racing with Dodge. His breadth of knowledge of motorsports spanned even IndyCar racing, as well as directing public relations at Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway, where the Cup and Truck Series are racing this weekend.
Hunter’s claim to fame also included authoring several books. His most famous in the world of NASCAR was “21 Forever”, a biography of David Person.
While Jim Hunter was most accomplished in so many ways, winning awards like the Hugh Deery Memorial Award and the National Motorsports Press Association’s Joe Littlejohn Award, there is no doubt that he would say, in his best South Carolinian drawl, that his family was his greatest accomplishment.
Hunter is survived by his wife Ann, with whom he has been for 48 years, and his children Scott Hunter and Amy McKernan. Hunter also was most proud of his grandchildren, Dakota Hunter, Hunter McKernan and Luke McKernan.
While Jim Hunter will leave a lasting legacy on the sport of NASCAR, the biggest lost will be felt in the media center, in the garage area and at every track on the NASCAR circuit.
Some of the biggest names in the sport have felt his loss already. Current Chase contender and past champion Tony Stewart had these words to share about his friend Jim Hunter.
“When it comes to my NASCAR career, one of my biggest influences was Jim Hunter,” Stewart said. “Jim became a great friend to me because he helped me understand why things were the way they were and how I could better handle situations. Jim is irreplaceable.”
“It seems as if everyone in the sport called him a friend,” France said. “Jim will forever be missed by the NASCAR community.”
On a personal note, I too will be one who will greatly miss Mr. Hunter. As a new citizen journalist, coming into the media center was a daunting and somewhat overwhelming task, not only figuring out the details of its workings but understanding how best to cover the news of the sport that I love.
Jim Hunter introduced himself, sat down and talked, shared information, but most important just made me feel welcome. At the last track, Las Vegas, where I saw him in person in the midst of his continuing treatments for his illness, he took him time to sit down and check on how I was doing, making sure I had everything I needed for the race weekend ahead. And for that I could not agree more with NASCAR President Mike Helton.
“Jim Hunter’s influence will remain with and be carried on by so many of the people he touched,” Helton said. “This is a sad day for Jim’s family and his extended NASCAR family.”
Funeral arrangements for Jim Hunter are still pending. The family has asked that donations be made to the NASCAR Foundation or to Hospice of Volusia/Flagler County in Jim’s name.