Sad / Tragic News, Deaths, Memorials

about the deaths of those involved in NASCAR main three divisions or major auto racing series

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  • Sad News - Earl Baltes: Earl Baltes, the founder and longtime promoter of Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, passed away this morning at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. He was 93. He is survived by Berneice, his wife of 67 years; daughter, Starr, and her husband, Joe Schmitmeyer; son, Terry, and his wife, Dee; beloved sister, Susie Barga, and six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Baltes built Eldora in 1954, first as a quarter-mile before shaping the track into its popular high-banked, half-mile oval configuration in 1958. Since then, it has become the premier dirt track in the United States. Under Baltes, the facility began hosting the highly successful Famous World 100 for Dirt Late Models, now the largest dirt race in the world, and the Dirt Late Model Dream, the richest dirt late model race in the world. A fan of sprint car racing, Baltes took great pride in his fabled Kings Royal Weekend for World of Outlaws Sprint Cars and many United States Auto Club (USAC) events, including the Four Crown Nationals. Races at Eldora were shown on ABC's "Wide World of Sports" with Keith Jackson and Al Michaels as broadcasters. ESPN, CBS and TNN also televised events that helped put Eldora on the map. Despite the track's growing popularity, Baltes kept ticket prices affordable and concessions costs low, which continued to attract fans from around the world. In 2001, Baltes posted a remarkable $1 million payout to the winner of the "Eldora Million" Dirt Late Model race and followed that with the "Mopar Million" in 2003, which had a purse of $1 million and paid $200,000 to the winner of a non-winged sprint car race. He was inducted into many Halls of Fame, including National Sprint Car, National Dirt Late Model, USAC, Dayton Auto Racing Fans and Hoosier Auto Racing Fans, and was named USAC Race Organizer of the Year in 1984 and 1997. He was named Auto Racing Promoter of the Year in 1993, and fellow iconic promoter H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler recognized him with the Charlotte Motor Speedway Promoter of the Year Award in 2001. The state of Ohio named Route 118 "Earl Baltes Highway" from Ansonia to the south to St. Henry to the north. In 2004, Baltes began to think about selling Eldora. Despite several suitors, he reached out to a driver whose style he had always admired, three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and former Eldora driver Tony Stewart. The sale was completed in the fall of 2004.(Eldora Speedway)(3-23-2015)
    Services: The family will receive friends from 2-8 pm (EDT) on Friday, March 27 at the Oliver-Floyd Funeral Home, 1000 N. Broadway St., in Greenville, Ohio. A mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 am, on Saturday, March 28 at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Burkettsville, Ohio. Father Tom Hemm will lead the celebration. Baltes, who was a United States Army Solider during World War II, will be buried with full military honors in the St. Bernard Catholic Church Cemetery following mass. In lieu of flowers, the Baltes family requests that memorial contributions be given to the American Heart Association.(3-24-2015)

  • Sad News - Tim Attaya, Sr: Timothy A. Attaya, Sr., 75, died peacefully March 5, 2015 at Maine General Medical Center with his loving daughter, Debbie, by his side. He was born August 21, 1939 in Waterville, the son of Thomas Jackson and Frances Priscilla (Sibley) Attaya. He was educated in local area schools and graduated from Waterville High School in 1957. He was employed by S.D. Warren Paper Company as a bio-mass operator from 1965 to 1998 and also owned and operated All Seasons Motor Sports Show every January at the Augusta Civic Center from 1987 to 2009. Tim was president of the Maine Chapter for Richard Petty Fan Club from 1977 to 1985 and was vice president of the United Paperworker's International Union for most of the 1970s. He enjoyed NASCAR, auto racing, and he started his affinity for racing with promoter position at Unity Raceway, Unity,ME, from 1979-1982 and later at Beech-Ridge Speedway in Scarborough from 1983 to 1985. After retirement, he attended Daytona 500 and never missed a race on TV. At Timothy's Sr. request there will be no funeral or visitation hours. Graveside service in the spring at the convenience of the family. Arrangements under the care and direction of Dan & Scott's Cremation & Funeral Service, 445 Waterville Road, Skowhegan, Maine 04976.(Daily Bulldog)(3-14-2015)

  • Sad News - Ron Lemasters Sr.: Ron Lemasters Sr., a longtime contributor to National Speed Sport News, passed away March 9 at Ball Memorial Hospital, Muncie, IN after a sudden illness. He was 76. Lemasters, former sports editor at The Muncie (Ind.) Star, began his stint with NSSN in the 1970s, writing copy from Winchester (Ind.) Speedway and other races in the area. Later, he covered the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and other major motorsports events for the paper, and penned news stories from the area. Lemasters spent his childhood near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and loved open-wheel racing his whole life. A member of the Indianapolis 500 Old Timers Association, Lemasters was an integral part of the News Bureau at IMS for the past 17 years. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Joyce Lemasters; sons Ron Lemasters Jr. (Chris) of Concord, N.C.; Mike Lemasters (Christy) of Boulder City, Nev.; five grandchildren; and brother Frank LeMasters, Brunswick, Ga. Lemasters served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, including two tours of the Western Pacific.
    He was named sports editor of Muncie's morning newspaper in 1982, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1999. Lemasters was inducted into the Delaware County Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989, and was twice voted Sportswriter of the Year by the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association. He was also named to that organization's Hall of Fame in 2001. He was inducted into the Mid-American Conference Media Hall of Fame for his coverage of Ball State athletics. Burial is set for Thursday in Muncie.(Muncie Star-Press / National Speed Sport News)(3-11-2015)

  • Sad News - Brian Hilderbrand: Brian Hilderbrand was an outstanding auto racing writer, and before that he was an outstanding baseball writer. Before that he was the best man at my wedding. Know this: The man could throw a hell of a bachelor party. I saw Brian at the speedway on Jan. 19 when some of the NASCAR drivers were in town to test tires and work on their setups. He asked if he could borrow my truck. He wanted to haul some stuff to the dump. Sure, I said. Let's do it on a weekend. I'll go with you. I think there's a bar just around the corner from the waste disposal station. The next time I saw him was Jan. 27. It wasn't a weekend. It was a Tuesday morning. Paramedics were carrying Brian from his home on a gurney. He had suffered a massive stroke. Brian Hilderbrand died Wednesday. He was 55 years old.(see full article at the Las Vegas Review Journal)(3-7-2015)

  • Sad News - Thee Dixon: Thee Carlin Dixon, of Durham, NC, the first African American team owner in NASCAR, passed away on Feb. 20, 2015. He was 76 years old. In 1989, he fielded his first Winston Cup entry, under the banner of Mansion Racing, with Mike Potter driving. In 1990, Dixon attempted two races with Mike Skinner. Carl Long and Dixon made three of an attempted twelve starts in 2001 and one of five in 2002. Dixon didn't field another Cup car after. His best Cup finish was 28th in the 1992 AC Delco 500 at Rockingham with Skinner (Frontstretch). Funeral arrangements at
    NASCAR Statement on the Passing of Thee Dixon: "NASCAR extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Thee Dixon, a passionate team owner whose love for racing fueled his unmatched positive spirit. Dixon was one of NASCAR's early African-American team owners, fielding teams in NASCAR's Sportsman Series, Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from the late 1980s through the turn of the century. He was universally admired by all who knew him, a friendly presence on pit road and in garages throughout the series, and his dedication to the sport will forever serve as an example for the NASCAR family."(2-27-2015)

  • Sad News - Michael Colabucci Sr.: On Monday, February 23, 2015, Michael Anthony Colabucci Sr., passed from this world. Born to Lawrence and Angela "Tootsie" Colabucci on December 16th, 1962 in Washington, D.C., Mike attended Frederick Douglass High School. He was the beloved husband of Maureen; father of Mike Colabucci, Jr.; and survived by one granddaughter; brother of Brian, Kevin, Patrick, Lauren and Lesley. He also loved his 2 dogs, Toby and Bucci. Michael worked for 3 decades in the automotive business as a salesman, manager, general manager and dealer. He spent the majority of his career with Lustine Chevrolet in Hyattsville, MD and most recently in Waldorf, MD. He loved automobiles and in his younger days raced motorcycles, stock cars and competed in the NACAR Craftsman Truck Series. Family and friends are invited to Mike's Life Celebration on Friday, February 27 from 9:30am until a Mass of Christian Burial is offered at 11:00am at The Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 11704 Duley Station Rd., Upper Marlboro, MD. Interment will follow at Resurrection Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions my be made to Little Sisters of the Poor, Jeanne Jugan Residence, 4200 Harwood Rd., N.E., Washington, DC or to Servants of the Lord, 1714 Crain Highway, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774.(2-25-2015)

  • Sad News - Dane Miller: Dane Miller, a biomedical engineer and entrepreneur sometimes known as "Mr. Biomet," died today, company officials confirmed. Miller, one of four founders of Biomet Inc., was CEO of the Warsaw [Indiana]-based orthopedic devices manufacturer from its founding in 1977 until 2006.(Journal Gazette), Miller was the husband of Mary Louise Miller, co-owner of the former #70 ML Motorsports XFINITY team.(2-11-2015)

  • Sad news - Evans Norris: Evans Norris, age 76, father of JR Norris the 2006 NASCAR All Pro Series/Southeast Series Champion and current Truck Chief on the #54 Kyle Busch Motorsports team, passed away on Sunday, February 1, 2014 in Hueytown, Alabama. Evans was a former Wheelen All American Series driver in the Hobby Class picking up two championships in 1964 and 1965 and was very instrumental in his son's NASCAR career.A viewing is set for Wednesday, February 4 from 5-7:00pm at Peoples Funeral Home in Hueytown, AL with the funeral Thursday, February 5, 2015 at St Stanislaus Catholic Church in Wylam, AL. In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be made to the Kyle Busch Foundation or the Victory Junction Gang in memory of Evans Norris. The Kyle Busch Foundation 351 Mazeppa Rd. Mooresville, NC 28115. Victory Junction 4500 Adams Way Randleman, NC 27317.(Kyle Busch Motorsports)(2-4-2015)

  • Sad News - Mike Thomas: Michael Jay Thomas, 58 of Jackson, Georgia left this earth on February 1, 2015. He was born on May 4, 1956 in East Point, GA. He worked at Delta Airlines for 32 years, retiring in 2008 having never called in sick. In the 80's he joined NASCAR working for Bill Elliott and later Richard Childress Racing with driver Dale Earnhardt, Sr. In 1996, he began working with Kawasaki doing demo shows all across the country. Mike's favorite place to be was at home on the lake surrounded by family and friends. He is survived by his wife, Leacheal Thomas; father and stepmother, Jay and Jean Thomas; mother and stepfather Karen and Bill Grubbs; sister and brother in law, Kaye and Rodney Dill; and several nieces, nephews and in laws that loved and adored him. Visitation and services will be at Conner-Westbury Funeral Home Monday 6-8pm and Tuesday at 1pm led by Pastor David Ables. Interment will follow at Brooks Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Mike Thomas Memorial Fund . Please join the family in honoring the life of Michael Thomas by visiting and posting your tributes and memories. Conner-Westbury Funeral Home, 1891 W. McIntosh Road, Griffin is in charge of arrangements.(Atlanta Journal Constitution)(2-2-2015)

  • Sad News - Howard Thomas: Howard Monroe Thomas Jr., 85, of Asheboro died Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, at Clapp's Convalescent Nursing Home in Asheboro, NC Born on Jan. 11, 1930, in Randolph County, Mr. Thomas was the son of the late Howard Monroe Thomas Sr. and Bertie Victoria Coble Langley. He was formerly the co-owner and manager of Thomas Brothers Country Ham for 53 years. During his time at Thomas Brothers Ham, they sponsored a NASCAR late model car. (NOTE: Howard was a car owner in the Busch Series from 1982-1988 with drivers Sam Ard, Jimmy Hensley, Brett Bodine winning 27 times in 201 races). Mr. Thomas served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. In addition to his parents, Mr. Thomas was preceded in death by his wife, Clara Pearman Thomas. Surviving are his daughter, Brenda Phillips and husband Robert of Asheboro; son, Don M. Thomas of Asheboro; sisters, Gaynelle Yow and Louise Routh, both of Liberty; brothers, H. Dean Millikan, Jim Millikan and Charles "Bud" Thomas, all of Asheboro; stepbrother, Ronnie Kirkman of Liberty; and grandchild, Travis Thomas Phillips. Memorials contributions may be made to Hospice of Randolph, P.O. Box 9, Asheboro, NC 27204. Condolences may be made online at www.ridgefuneral Tribune)(2-2-2015)

  • Sad News - Jason Anderson: Dover International Speedway is mourning the loss of a dedicated employee who died yesterday from injuries sustained during a multi-vehicle collision on I-476 in Broomall, Pa. Jason Anderson, 33, senior director of ticket sales and operations for Dover International Speedway, died in the accident. Jason was a dedicated husband, father, employee and friend. He will be greatly missed. Anderson was a member of the Dover Motorsports, Inc. team for six years, and moved to Dover, Del. after operations were ceased at Memphis Motorsports Park. He worked at the New Orleans Saints prior to joining the Dover team. He was a proud Syracuse University graduate and recently received his master's degree in Sports Management from Ohio University. Memorial services will be announced when more information is available.(Dover Speedway)(1-19-2015)

  • Sad News - Edward Doebler: Edward John Doebler, father of Richard Petty Motorsports fabricator and body hanger Kevin Doebler, passed away in a motor vehicle accident near his home in Troutman, NC the evening of Tuesday, January 13, 2015. He was 62. Ed retired from IBM in Endicott, NY after over 30 years of service. He was a racer who had feature wins at the former Shangri-La Speedway in Owego, NY where he was nicknamed "The Leadfoot". While maintaining his full time job Ed assisted among others Alan Kulwicki Racing, Jimmy Means Racing and Brett Bodine Racing as a tire specialist, jackman, tire changer even crew chief when the series shifted to the northern tracks. Ed was a family man who is survived by his wife of 39 years, Patricia Doebler; his mother, Dorothy Doebler of Binghamton, NY; two sons, Joseph Doebler and Kevin Doebler both of Mooresville, NC, and his daughter, Kristi Doebler of Wilmington, NC. He was preceded in death by his Father, Richard Doebler. Celebrations of life will be held in Ed's honor on Monday, January 19 in Mooresville, NC at the Wingate Hotel from 6:30-8:30pm and on Thursday, January 22 in Binghamton, NY at American Legion Post 1194 from 6:00-8:00pm. In lieu of flowers please donate to your local Humane Society or favorite children's charity.(1-18-2015)

  • Sad News - Ray Williams: Ray Williams, father of veteran motorsports writer Deb Williams, passed away Tuesday at his Canton, N.C., home where he was born after a gallant 1 year battle with prostate cancer. He was 91. A World War II veteran, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps for three years before returning to his hometown where he spent 45 years as a machinist at Champion Paper and Fiber Co., which became International Paper. A man whose family was always first in his life and his heart, he is survived by his wife of 72 years, Christine "Cricket" Scroggs Williams; two daughters, Gail Williams O'Brien and her husband Tony La Vopa of Raleigh, N.C., and Deb Williams of Concord, N.C.; a granddaughter, Kelly Christina O'Brien of Albany, Calif.; and several loving nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Alvers Joshua Williams and Bertha Winchester Williams, and a brother, Earl Williams Sr. Crawford/Ray Funeral Home in Canton is handling the arrangements.(1-15-2015)

  • Sad News - "Dusty" Jones: Henry Clay "Dusty" Jones Jr., who died Wednesday [Jan 7th] at 90 in a local hospital, was a NASCAR man and Richmond's "sand man." After returning from World War II Navy service in the South Pacific, he and Wesley C. "Junie" Donlavey Jr. teamed up to build Modified Stock Cars in Donlavey's Midlothian shop and raced them all over Virginia. Mr. Jones' car, a 1939 Ford Coupe that he ran until 1952, was car number 91, and Donlavey's car was number 90. "One of his main claims to fame was that when he built the number 91 car, he beat Junie the first five times they raced," said Joe Kelly, radio co-host with his wife, Ruth, of "Let's Talk Racing." Some of Mr. Jones' drivers included Emanuel "The Greek" Zervakis and Ernest L. "Sonny" Hutchins. Mr. Jones left racing as an owner-driver in the early 1950s to take over the trucking business of his father, who had died, and to take care of his mother. He converted the business into H.C. Jones Sand & Gravel, which sold sandbox sand to Richmond schools and day cares, as well as to individuals. He became Richmond's "sand man" because no one else was doing it, according to Jean Green Jones, his wife since 1953. "You could buy a cup, or you could buy a bag of sand," she remembered. However, the racing bug never left him. He began a secondary career with NASCAR in 1952 as a flagman starter and worked races from Daytona on up the East Coast. Mr. Jones served as chief steward - the ranking NASCAR representative - at local speedways for 25 years, Kelly said. He was chief steward at Southside Speedway from 1974 until the end of the 1985 season, as well as for one year at Beltsville Speedway in Beltsville, Md., and at South Boston Speedway in South Boston. In 1975, he also became a Winston Cup technical inspector. "He inspected engines in cars before and after races to make sure they were legal," Kelly said. He had officiated at venues including Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas and Langley Speedway in Hampton and was an official at all racing events in Richmond until the late 1980s, Kelly said. Mr. Jones retired in 2000 when he was diagnosed with cancer and his health began to decline. See the obituary at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.(1-12-2015)

  • Sad News: #42-Kyle Larson's grandmother passed away on Tuesday, December 30th. From Kyle Larson's Twitter: "RIP Grandma Patty. I know you missed Grandpa and couldn't wait to be with him again in heaven. I love you guys!" )(1-5-2015)

  • Sad News - Valerie Shaak: Doug Shaak, former Melling Racing (w/Bill Elliott), Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing machinist, tire changer and mechanic lost his daughter Valerie to a automobile accident Friday night. Valerie worked as a hostess at Olive Garden. At 11:22pm/et, authorities said a moped driven by Phillip Brice Black, 19, was rear-ended by a 2011 Infiniti driven by Robert John Leahy, 46, in the 10000 block of Old Statesville Road in Charlotte. The moped was lodged in the front of the car and Black was thrown from the moped along with Valerie Shaak, 22, who was a passenger. Shaak was pronounced dead at the scene and Black was taken to Carolinas Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, police said.(full article on accident at the Charlotte Observer.
    See the obituary at the Charlotte Obsever for info on services and condolences.(12-23-2014)

  • Sad News - Ted Proctor: Ted Wilson Proctor, 76, of Terrell, NC, died unexpectedly Friday, December 5, 2014 at Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC. Born September 16, 1938 in Hickory, he was the son of the late Burlie Michael Proctor and Pauline Wilson Proctor. Mr. Proctor graduated from Lenoir Rhyne College, Hickory and was a veteran of the US Air Force serving in Korea.
    He is the retired former President and part-owner of Piedmont Distributors, Salisbury and part-owner of Proctor Wholesale, Hickory. He was an avid race fan and for the past 15 years has been working for NASCAR. Mr. Proctor was a member of the Masonic Lodge and Shriners, Salisbury Elks Lodge #699, American Legion Post #342 and the Hudson- Miller-Tatum, VFW Post 3006.
    Those left to cherish his memory are his wife, Billie Jean Everhardt Baker Proctor; sons, Douglas T. Proctor and wife Julie of Salisbury and Jeffrey K. Proctor and wife Kristi of Salisbury; step-daughters, Tricia J. Sellers of Salisbury and Sherry Y. Goodman of Salisbury: brother, Dean Proctor and wife Brenda of Hickory; sister, Rebecca "Becky" Proctor Ward and husband Rick of Hickory; grandchildren, Candice Proctor of Salisbury, Brittany P. Adams and husband Spencer of Salisbury, Hobie Proctor of Salisbury, Payton Proctor of Salisbury; step-grandchild, Raven Blevins of Salisbury; great-grandchild, Piper Adams of Salisbury.
    The family will receive friends from 5-6 PM Monday (Dec. 8) at the Summersett Funeral Home followed by a Memorial Service at 6 PM at Summersett Memorial Chapel with the Rev. Carroll Robinson, officiating. Memorials may be made to Hudson-Miller-Tatum VFW Post 3006, 1200 Brenner Ave., Salisbury, NC 28144.(Summersett Funeral Home)(12-7-2014)

  • Sad News - Bill Bigley Sr.: Bill Bigley, Sr., 74, Naples, FL, passed away peacefully at home on November 28, 2014. Online condolences may be made at the Fuller Funeral Home website:
    AND Stock car racing was in Bill Bigley Sr.'s tank. It was a passion he passed on to his son and his grandsons. He was the ex-driver, track owner and workaholic who just couldn't get enough of the ovals. At the big tracks - or little ones like the Collier County Speedway he operated for a dozen years on Radio Road east of Naples - Bigley put the family name in many a winner's circle when others would have parked the hauler and given up. The elder Bigley, the patriarch of the Pen Air Conditioning business he started in 1982, unexpectedly passed away in his sleep on Nov. 28. "He was 74 and a lot of people would ask him why he hadn't retired," Billy Bigley Jr. said. "He always told them that if he retired, he wouldn't be able to keep doing the things he loved doing. A lot of had to do with racing. It's expensive. But I really don't remember a day that he didn't love coming to work. He loved every minute of it." To be sure, Bill Sr. didn't muster the racing career Billy has enjoyed - and still does. Back in the day, Bill drove late model machines that were primitive compared to the equipment now common. They were the kind of race cars a driver had to manhandle if he was going to stay on the track. And when he felt the time was right to get out of the car, Bill handed over the #28 machine to his son, who still wheels the 28 at tracks throughout South Florida. In fact, most nights now, there are two 28s out there rubbing fenders. Billy drives the No. 28A and his youngest son, Dylan, pilots the No. 28B. Corey Bigley, the older brother of Dylan, races on Saturday nights, too. Billy said Thursday that without his father's financial backing, racing experience and wisdom, he never would have become an All-Pro Series Late Model Champion and Rookie of the Year, or a driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Billy even won an ARCA Re/Max Series race while driving for Wayne Spears, his truck series owner, in 2001. At the age of 41, Billy Bigley even tried to debut in NASCAR's megastar Cup Series with a startup team owned by local developer Don Arnold. Against all odds, Bigley's first Cup qualifying attempt was at the revered Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On his last lap of qualifying, Bigley lightly scraped the outside wall exiting Turn Four, brushing off precious fractions of a second of speed that kept him from making the starting grid of the Brickyard 400 in 2003.
    The Bigley legacy started right here in Collier County. The quarter-mile oval Bill Sr. ran was right next to the Swamp Buggy Grounds. The Radio Road location is now the site of an industrial park. "People worked all week just so they could go out to the track and play on Saturday night." Billy, now with 35 years behind the wheel, said. "It's where my dad raced and I started racing there. It was good. When the speedway did good, the swamp buggy track did good, too." The labor of love did wear on Bigley Sr. some after two spectators were killed as the result of a backstretch racing accident one night. Legal matters dragged out for some time. The legal issues were not, however, what caused the Collier County Speedway to close down in 1985, Billy recalled. "We went out there to race and the gate had new padlocks," he said. "There were new owners of the property. They told us we were done." The swamp buggy track was relocated to the present Florida Sports Park site on Collier Boulevard southeast of Naples. No one could ever justify the cost of building a new stock car track locally, however. Oval racing went by the wayside. "As a spotter, Dad was always my coach and eyes up above," Billy said. "He would keep me calm. If he sensed I was mad out there on the track and was ready to hit somebody on purpose, Dad would always say "Don't knock my $100 fender off to get'em back.' So I didn't. I always remembered what he said about that $100 fender."(Naple Daily News)(12-7-2014)

  • Sad News - Denny Darnell UPDATES: Denny Darnell, a sportswriter turned track general manager and respected public relations representative, died Saturday. A sportswriter for the Kingsport (Tennessee) Times-News, Darnell was VP/general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway from 1983 through 1988. During his time with the track, he worked with ESPN to televise both NASCAR race weekends live from Thunder Valley. From 1991 to 1998, Darnell served as director of communications for the National Hot Rod Association before becoming senior manager, media relations for Sports Marketing Enterprises at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for five years. He supported the company's motorsports sponsorships, including NASCAR's premier series. As president and CEO of Darnell Communications, he managed public relations for Dodge Motorsports from 2008 through 2013. His tenure included a Daytona 500 win by Ryan Newman in the 50th Daytona 500 in 2008, a NASCAR Nationwide Series championship with Brad Keselowski in 2010 and Keselowski's 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Darnell retired at the beginning of 2014.(
    UPDATE: "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. He approached his job seriously and professionally, but few could bring laughter like Denny. He was a public relations institution, and will be greatly missed."(NASCAR)(11-22-2014)
    OBIT: Denny Darnell, known as "The General" by his peers, 70, passed away peacefully of an apparent heart attack Saturday, November 22, 2014 in Tazewell, VA, surrounded by family and friends. Born in Coeburn, VA on September 1, 1944, a son of the late Denny F. and Hazel Campbell Darnell, growing up in Slant, VA, he has resided in Kingsport for the past 40 years. He graduated from Rye Cove High School in 1962. After graduating from ETSU in 1975, he got his start as a sports writer at Kingsport Times News. Denny's motorsports career had many pit stops. He served as Vice-President and General Manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, and Director of Communications at NHRA. His next pit stop was as the head of public relations for R.J. Reynolds Winston and NEXTEL. His final pit stop was as the head of public relations for Dodge Motorsports as CEO of Darnell Communications. His proudest moments included a Daytona 500 win by Ryan Newman in the 50th Daytona 500 in 2008, a NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship with Brad Keselowski in 2010 and Keselowski's 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Jean Honaker Darnell of the home and his son Denny F. "Trey" Darnell, III and husband Matthew Smith of Gray; one granddaughter, "Little Miss" Harper Darnell; one sister: Betty Carter and husband, Clay of Kingsport; one brother: Sidney Darnell and wife, Eva of Kingsport; Sister-in-law: Peggy Darnell of Weber City; Several Nieces and Nephews; two dogs: Dutchess and Ginger "Diggy". Denny was a conservative Republican who enjoyed talking politics to his peers and anyone else that would listen. Due to his comments on social media regarding how our country is being handled, he and his wife listened every day for a helicopter to fly over containing the CIA. After several years of saying "just one more year" before retirement, he retired earlier this year. Although he loved the media and missed the NASCAR community, he didn't miss the travel. He was often asked, "How are you enjoying retirement?" His answer was "I didn't do anything today, and I didn't get finished, and I plan on doing the same thing tomorrow". Family will receive friends Tuesday, November 25, 2014 from 4-7 p.m at Springdale Missionary Baptist Church, 1616 Haga Rd, Kingsport, TN. A celebration of his life service will follow at 7 p.m. with Pastor Alan Buckles, Pastor Dave Rossetti and Dr. David Troutman. Burial following graveside services at 11 a.m. Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at Holston View Cemetery. Pallbearers will be nephews and friends. Those attending committal services are asked to assemble at the church by 10:15 a.m. Wednesday and then proceed to the cemetery. Those wishing to make memorial contributions may do so to Rye Cove High School Athletic Department, 164 Eagles Nest Ln, Duffield, VA or to Speedway Children's Charities, 151 Speedway Blvd, Bristol, TN 37620.(Hamlett-Dobson)(11-24-2014)

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