Drivers, Team Owners Remember Jim Hunter
TALLADEGA, Ala. — Longtime NASCAR official Jim Hunter died Friday.
Nearly every driver, team owner and media member had their own private examples of how Hunter affected their involvement in the sport.
“The entire NASCAR community is mourning the passing of Jim Hunter,” said team owner Jack Roush. “As a new team owner from the outside joining NASCAR in 1988, I was welcomed and befriended by Jim and his wife Ann in the early days before I was settled, and as I was getting my feet wet in this sport. Past that, Jim remained a friend of whom I could seek sage advice and badly needed sympathy on more occasions than I can recall. His departure has diminished us all.”
Jeff Gordon is as media-savvy as any driver in the history of NASCAR and understood how Hunter’s influence helped NASCAR become a mainstream sport.
“He was just such a quality person and so passionate about this sport,” Gordon said. “I think that is a sign of a great person and their legacy is how many people are going to be saying great things about Jim and what he meant to the sport and how dearly missed he is going to be. You are going to hear it over and over and over for a long time. He was just one of those individuals that will never be able to be replaced. I have had great memories with Jim at the banquet and Darlington, just in general. I loved how he approached this sport and his job and his life and his family. I really, really respected him a lot.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. practically grew up with Hunter because he played a key role in the sport while his father, Dale Earnhardt, was racing.
“I can’t remember the first time I met him because I was little,” Earnhardt recalled. “But one thing I remember about Jim is that every time I went to New York for the banquets I was always like a fish out of water. I would go to those dinners with him and (Mike) Helton and whoever else and he was always the one who would talk to me. I didn’t really know anybody else at the table. There were people that I couldn’t speak their language and he would sit there and we’d just talk and he’d make the night go by and get those boring old dinners out of the way. But every time you saw him he was happy to see you and he was one of the good guys. It’s a general statement but there’s a lot of toughness and ruthlessness and he was one of the genuine and good people that looked out for everybody and always did what he could for you. I just really appreciated knowing him.”
When Tony Stewart would run afoul of the NASCAR law, he would often get lectured by Hunter. But he had a tremendous respect for the man and honored him by wearing a hat on Saturday in Hunter’s memory.
“This is for Jim Hunter,” Stewart said. “Jim was a great friend of mine and at the same time was a guy that was really big in helping me understand why and how NASCAR worked and operated. He helped me through a lot of the tough times when I was struggling and fighting with NASCAR, he was the guy that came in and helped me see it from a different perspective. I lost a good friend but the whole sport lost a great mentor and somebody that has really been a behind-the-scenes guy but very much a big part of this sport being successful as it is.”