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Longtime NASCAR official Jim Hunter dies at 71

Hunter Jim Hunter, a NASCAR executive who spent portions of six decades in the industry, first as a newspaper reporter and later as a public relations official with the sanctioning body, has died after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 71.

Hunter died Friday night in Daytona Beach, Fla., NASCAR announced.

"Jim Hunter was one of NASCAR's giants," said NASCAR chairman Brian France. "For more than 40 years Jim was part of NASCAR and its history."

Hunter helped shape NASCAR's image during its mid-2000s popularity boom, but his influence went well beyond media relations. He was a member of late NASCAR chairman and CEO Bill France Jr.'s inner circle and had a hand in most major decisions of the sport.

Hunter was often a buffer — and occasional peacemaker — between NASCAR's leaders and drivers, team owners and track promoters. He took time to counsel NASCAR's newest drivers, particularly Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya as they adjusted to the sanctioning body's strict ways.

His early career stops included a stint as sports editor of the Columbia (S.C.) Record and as a writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He wrote several books, including a biography of driver David Pearson.

Hunter also worked as the public relations director at Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway before joining NASCAR in 1983 as vice president of administration.

--Associated Press

Photo: Jim Hunter in 2007. Credit: Associated Press

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