TAZEWELL, VA: Former journalist and longtime motorsports communications executive Denny Darnell died on Saturday at the age of 70 of an apparent heart attack. He retired at the beginning of this year.
Darnell served as the president and CEO of Darnell Communications, a firm that worked with motorsports entities, from January 2008 to the end of 2013. He was the head of PR for Dodge Motorsports during that time.
Previously, he was senior manager of media relations for the sports marketing enterprises division of RJ Reynolds Tobacco, director of communications for the National Hot Rod Association, and VP and GM of Bristol Motor Speedway, according to his LinkedIn Account. He was a sportswriter earlier in his career.
During his tenure at RJ Reynolds, he was credited with working with media networks to get greater exposure for NASCAR races during one of its major growth periods.
"NASCAR offers its sincere condolences to the friends and family of Denny Darnell. For decades working with Bristol Motor Speedway, RJ Reynolds, Nextel, and Dodge, Denny was a familiar and friendly face in media centers and NASCAR garages throughout the country," said Brett Jewkes, NASCAR’s SVP and CCO, in a statement. "He approached his job seriously and professionally, but few things could bring laughter like Denny. He was a public relations institution, and will be greatly missed."
Racing legends and motorsports organizations issued tributes to Darnell over the weekend on social media.
Shocked to hear about Denny Darnell, one of the nicest guys that's ever been in racing, he'll be missed. Go rest high on that mountain Denny— Darrell Waltrip (@AllWaltrip) November 22, 2014
Denny Darnell was an incredibly nice man. Always enjoyed talking to him. He called me Champ even though I never won one.— Jeff Burton (@JeffBurton) November 22, 2014
Our thoughts and prayers to the family of Denny Darnell. He was an old school PR Rep who worked with us in the past. Always great to us.— RPMotorsports (@RPMotorsports) November 22, 2014
We mourn the loss of motorsports public relations professional Denny Darnell and send our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.— Toyota Racing (@ToyotaRacing) November 22, 2014