Talladega Rear View Mirror

Jim Hunter

A decal was placed on each car at Talladega in memory of Jim Hunter. (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s been a very rough stretch in the NASCAR community with the loss of some of the sport’s most influential figures over the last several days.

Jeff Byrd, president of Bristol Motor Speedway, Gatorade marketing rep Ed Shull and long-time NASCAR journalist Jack Flowers have all passed over the course of the last two weeks. Each made their mark on the sport and have left a gaping hole in its future.

But another prominent figure was unfortunately added to the list with Friday night’s news that Jim Hunter had lost his lengthy battle with cancer.

It’s impossible to think of a NASCAR without Jim Hunter being a part of it. He was involved in the sport for six decades in a variety of positions that included newspaper reporter, author, public relations rep, track president and NASCAR administrator.

And he did all of them extraordinarily well.

Hunter was the sport’s connection to its past and about as Old School as they come. But he also embraced the modern world of the sport and enjoyed today’s fast-paced NASCAR, welcoming the opportunity to bridge the history of the sport with the present.

There isn’t a person connected to NASCAR that hasn’t somehow been impacted by Hunter’s involvement and it is a huge loss to know the sight of the man in his famous yellow NASCAR baseball cap, vest and golf shoes is gone from the track forever.

Talladega Superspeedway, where Hunter spent years as the track’s PR head, rechristened its press box the Jim Hunter Memorial Press Box over the weekend, a fitting and classy move by officials of the Alabama speed plant.

But Hunter’s effect on NASCAR will live on beyond his name being adorned to a press box or any other award he earned over his many years inside the sport. Jim Hunter was NASCAR and among the most passionate people I’ve ever met.

He helped so many young people in various walks of NASCAR professional life get their start and enjoyed being a mentor to anyone who would ask for his advice, including yours truly. Hunter helped propel me down a career path hat I continue to be blessed to work in today, a story hundreds of others no doubt share.

God Speed to Hunter and his beloved family in their time of loss.

  • Chamber of Commerce weather was a welcome sight over the weekend in Talladega, coming on the heels of some especially rough weather that hit the area earlier in the week. The crowd was spotty in some areas of the grandstands with other areas packed while the massive campgrounds and infield looked tightly populated.
  • Richard Petty Motorsports officials were quiet in Talladega and the ongoing saga of the financial strapped team plays out. It now appears that RPM will continue to field four cars for the remainder of the season but the latest wrinkle of Budweiser not fulfilling the final scheduled payment of the No. 9 entry’s sponsorship in the wake of Kasey Kahne’s departure adds even more economic stress to the situation.
  • With RPM shrinking from four to two cars next season (or potentially none if the ship isn’t righted) and now Robby Gordon announcing he won’t run a full season in 2011, the potential for short fields now becomes a real possibility next year. That prediction was made two years ago by many but never came to fruition. The economic pressures of the sport may catch up with that prediction after all.
  • Sunday’s race didn’t reach the record lead changes of April’s Talladega visit but it still had more than its share of action and competition. A far cry from last fall’s controversial single file parade that many still believe resulted in NASCAR’s decision to penalize bump drafting, Halloween at Talladega is still the perfect spot on the Sprint Cup Series calendar.
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