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NASCAR executive Jim Hunter dies at 71

Forward by Bob Barney: I liked Jim Hunter. He knew the sport, he knew the drivers, and he knew what was needed to make NASCAR racing, especially at the local level, a beloved sport. You will be missed. I am proud to have known you.

Jim Hunter was among the first class of inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in May 2010.

Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president for communications, died of cancer Friday in Daytona Beach, Florida, the racing organization announced Saturday.

"Just woke up and find out that Jim Hunter a great friend passed away. All the prayers for his family," NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya tweeted Saturday morning.

Hunter, who was 71, was involved in auto racing for more than 40 years, according to his NASCAR obituary. He was inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in May.

"Jim Hunter was one of the most charismatic people in NASCAR," Chris Browning, president of Darlington Raceway, was quoted as saying on a NASCAR.com commemoration page. "Everyone at Darlington Raceway will certainly miss Jim's smile, stories and laugh."

After starting out as a journalist with the Columbia (South Carolina) Register and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hunter moved into public relations, first with Dodge's motorsports division and several drivers, then with Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway.

He joined NASCAR in 1983 as vice president of administration before being named president of Darlington Raceway in 1993. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Bill France Jr. wooed him back in 2001 to take over the organization's public relations. France died in 2007.

Hunter is survived by his wife of 48 years, Ann, two children and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.