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Longtime Daytona 500 invocation preacher dies
The Rev. Hal Marchman, a Baptist preacher who delivered the invocation before the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959 and continued as the Daytona International Speedway's unofficial chaplain through 2004, died "unexpectedly" on Sunday at Indigo Palms Memorial Care Facility in Daytona Beach, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Marchman, who was asked by his friend and NASCAR founder Bill France in 1959 to deliver the inaugural invocation, was a familiar sight at the speedway throughout the years for fans and drivers alike. NASCAR former champion Darrell Waltrip told the News-Journal that Marchman was "a servant and a shepherd" that "took good care of his flock."

Waltrip also told the News-Journal that he imagined Marchman is "in heaven alongside Mr. (Bill) France."

According to the story on the Web site, Marchman had been fighting dementia and memory loss for years, but it was a sudden bout of illness that ended his life Sunday, his daughter Anne Marchman-Jones said.

"Rev. Hal Marchman was a true friend to Daytona International Speedway and will be sorely missed," said Robin Braig, president of the Speedway. "He touched many lives at the Speedway, from the competitors to the race fans.

"We're thankful and grateful for his many years of service to the Speedway, but also to the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Marchman family." Sporting News

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