(Updated) Remembering iconic motorsports PR great Denny Darnell


Courtesy of the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News, here are the funeral arrangements for Denny F. Darnell Jr., a.k.a. The General of Motorsports.

Family will receive friends Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m at Springdale Missionary Baptist Church, 1616 Haga Rd, Kingsport, Tenn. A celebration of his life service will follow at 7 p.m. Burial following graveside services at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Holston View Cemetery.

Those attending committal services are asked to assemble at the church by 10:15 a.m. Wednesday and then proceed to the cemetery. Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Homes, Kingsport, is serving the Darnell family.

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The majority of you that read this will likely not know who Denny Darnell was.

Sure, most everyone in the business end of motorsports — particularly NASCAR, NHRA and the sports car world – got to know Denny at one point or other over the last 30 years.

But those of you who did not know him, or wonder who he was and why the world of motorsports is mourning him so greatly, trust me, Denny was someone you would definitely have liked to know.

He was the kind of guy who taught you lessons that you will carry for the rest of your life.

He was the kind of guy who would take green reporters or fellow public relations people and patiently help them learn the ropes.

He was the kind of guy who always loved a good debate, be it sports or politics. And more often than not, his viewpoint was the right one.

He was the kind of guy who was good at everything he did, but most importantly it was because of the kind of person he was. He treated you as an equal, as a peer, always at the ready with a big smile, a pat on the back and a hearty handshake.

As I write this, I can hear him calling his standard line every time we’d see each other, “Hey, Jerry B., how’s it going?”

Denny passed away Saturday unexpectedly at the age of 70 from an apparent heart attack.

No one saw it coming.

To say the motorsports world is in shock is putting it mildly. Denny didn’t just have dozens or even hundreds of friends, he had thousands.

In this modern day of social media, the memory of a great person is often measured by the number of Facebook testimonials and Twitter remembrances.

Honestly, I stopped counting after 200, because they just kept coming and coming. Denny was that beloved and respected.

Included in the online mourners was a veritable Who’s Who in motorsports, from NASCAR Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty, to NASCAR star Brad Keselowski, all who Denny worked with at one time or other in his career.

As Dave Ongle, of Darnell’s hometown newspaper, the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News, wrote after learning of Denny’s passing, “The sport had lost a true gentleman, a consummate professional and, quite possibly, the best PR person in the history of the sport.”

Denny, who began his lengthy career as a sportswriter at the Times-News, was everybody’s friend. I didn’t know him to have any enemies or people that would say anything bad about him.

No matter what job he had, he did it with aplomb and professionalism, from working at the Times-News to being general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, from managing RJ Reynolds’ PR during the time NASCAR exploded in popularity to his days as PR chief for the NHRA, from working with Keselowski to his time as the voice of Dodge Motorsports PR.

I have dozens of stories I can relate about Denny and the nearly 30 years I knew him.

He taught me what a true Southern gentleman was. He also taught me what true class was. He was nicknamed “The General” because of his incredible leadership and people skills.

We spent countless dinners together over the years, with an equally countless number of glasses of wine. Denny was a fascinating conversationalist. He may have come across as a simple good old boy, but he was one of the most intelligent and savviest people I’ve ever met in the business.

We’d often commiserate about how we were on the road so much that we’d often wake up not knowing what city we were in.

One of my fondest memories of Denny was when he introduced an apprehensive Yankee to what barbecued alligator tasted like in the infield at Talladega several years ago. (And yes, it does taste like chicken.)

He was especially kind to my daughter, becoming both a mentor and grandfather-type as she was beginning her own career in motorsports.

Whenever he saw my wife, he would always welcome her with a hug and a hearty, “How are you, Mrs. B?” with a Southern accent that was as smooth as fine Tennessee whiskey.

There’s no question Denny was a great PR person, but even more, he was a great person, period. When I started to write this column, I tried to come up with words that best described the man many of us called Double-D.

Two words came to mind immediately: caring and home.

He cared about everyone he met and knew. He also had such a way about himself that after someone new would meet Denny for the first time, five minutes later they’d feel they had known them their entire lives.

He wasn’t just a PR person, he was a people person even more. “Stranger” was not in Denny’s vocabulary. Rather, a stranger was someone he just hadn’t met and became friends with yet.

“Anything you need, you just let ‘ole Double D know and I’ll make it happen,” he probably said at least a million times in his life.

And he always delivered.

Then there was home, Kingsport, with his beloved Jean. If Denny was a true Southern gentleman, Jean was the true Southern lady. And Denny was such a proud father to their only child, Trey.

One of my most favorite memories of Denny and Jean was in New York for the NASCAR awards banquet in 2007.

It was the morning after Jimmie Johnson was crowned Sprint Cup champ for the second consecutive year.

As I was driving away from the Waldorf-Astoria to catch a plane, I looked to my left and there was Jean and Denny, walking down a New York City street, hand-in-hand, big smiles on their faces, looking like teenagers in love.

My wife, daughter and I all remarked about how they made such a cute couple even after 30 years of marriage. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

And Denny is indeed someone I’ll never forget. The world as a whole – and the motorsports world, in particular – has lost one of the best people that ever was part of it.

As I read all the testimonials to Denny on Twitter and Facebook, one stood out in particular, from Thomas Pope of the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer.

I’ve called Thomas a friend for many years and have always admired his way with words.

But his ode to Denny on Facebook could very well be the best thing Thomas has ever written because it was, just like Denny, so simple yet so true:

“If you didn’t like Denny Darnell (or vice-versa), that’s a sign that something’s seriously wrong with you.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Motocross 2023: Results and points after season opener at Fox Raceway


It was not the first time it has been done, but a rider winning in his Motocross debut is rare as the results show Jett Lawrence swept the motos at Fox Raceway in Pala, California and took the early points lead.

Dylan Ferrandis may not be quite 100 percent yet, but he was good enough to finish on the podium at Fox Raceway – Align Media

Lawrence became the 16th rider to win in his Motocross debut and was the 10th rider to do so in the season opener, At 19, he wasn’t the youngest to perform the feat; Rick Johnson was 17 in 1982 when he won the lidlifter at Hangtown, the site of next week’s race, but Lawrence’s inaugural win bodes well. The last time a rider performed this feat, Dylan Ferrandis went on to win the 2021 Motocross championship as a rookie in 2021.

Ferrandis did not sweep the motos that season while Lawrence’s performance on Saturday was perfect. He paced both practice sessions, earned the holeshot in each race and finished first in both motos after leading every lap to score maximum points. Lawrence started the weekend needing 85 points to climb into 20th in the combined SuperMotocross standings for the 450 class. Earning 50 with his perfect Motocross results at Fox Raceway, he is nearly 60 percent of the way to his goal.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Results; Click here for 250 Results

Chase Sexton was second across the board. He qualified in the second position and finished 2-2 in his motos. In the first race, he was a relatively distant runner-up behind Lawrence, crossing the finish line a little more than 10 seconds ahead. He got a great start in Moto 2 and pushed Lawrence for the entire race, never getting further back than three seconds. He tried to pressure Lawrence into making a mistake, but both riders hardly put a wheel wrong and they finished within a second of one another.

Returning from a concussion suffered in the Houston Supercross race earlier this season and exacerbated at Daytona, Ferrandis finished third in both motos to take third overall. His most important task at hand this week was to avoid trouble and start the Motocross season healthy at Fox Raceway so he can begin to accumulate strong results and move up in SuperMotocross points.

Ferrandis entered this round 25th in the standings and left Pala in 19th. With that position, he has an automatic invitation to the feature starting grid in the SuperMotocross World Championship as long as he does not fall back.

Click here for 450 Moto 1 [Lap Chart] | Moto 2 [Lap Chart] | Consolation Race

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb both ended the race with 34 points, but Plessinger had the tiebreaker with a better finish in the second race. Notably, both riders sustained injury sometime during the season, but Plessinger had an advantage by coming back a week sooner in Salt Lak City for the Supercross finale. He finished second in that race.

Webb was cleared late in the week by doctors after being on concussion protocol from a vicious strike to his helmet in a Nashville Supercross heat race late in the season. He made a beeline to the track to run the Motocross opener. After missing last year’s outdoor season, he wanted to make certain that did not happen again. He still has a solid opportunity to catch Sexton for the No. 1 overall seed in the SuperMotocross standings., but he will need to make up 78 points.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

For the first time in history, Pro Motocross results from Fox Raceway show brothers as winners on the same day.

Battling a rib injury suffered practicing earlier in the week, Hunter Lawrence got a poor start to Moto 1 and had to overcome his 10th-place standing at the end of Lap 1. He methodically worked his way toward the front but might have settled for a position off the podium if not for heavy traffic in the closing laps. Lawrence was able to get through the field quicker than Justin Cooper and Jo Shimoda to finish third.

Hunter Lawrence overcame sore ribs to score the overall 250 win at Fox Raceway – Align Media

Lawrence’s second moto was much stronger. He earned the holeshot and led all 15 laps of the race to win by a more than eight seconds.

Haiden Deegan didn’t feel any pressure heading into this round. No one expected much in his third Motocross National and he would have been happy with anything in the top five. At least that’s what he said in the post-race news conference. Deegan said similar things after finishing fourth in his first Supercross race this season. In a stacked field of 40 riders at Fox Raceway, “Danger Boy” finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2 for the second-place finish overall.

Click here for 250 Moto 1 [Lap Chart] | Moto 2 [Lap Chart] | Consolation Race

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan finished second overall. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire had an eventful weekend. He dominated Moto 1 and won by a healthy margin, making a statement about how he will race now that Jett Lawrence is no longer in the field. He was a victim of mayhem in Turn 2 of Moto 2, which forced him to the ground. Another crash on an uphill portion of the track later that same lap put him in 39th. Hampshire salvaged as many points as he could and finished 11th in the second race to stand on the final box of the podium.

Tom Vialle came within a lap of scoring his first career podium. He had the position based on a tiebreaker over Justin Cooper and Maximus Vohland until Hampshire passed two riders on the final lap and earned one point more than that threesome. Instead, Vialle settled for his first podium in an individual moto with a 7-3 in the two races. More accustomed to this style of racing, Vialle will be a factor in the coming rounds.

Click here for 250 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

Cooper finished with a 5-4 in the two motos to sweep the top five and take fourth-place overall. Cooper started five rounds in the 450 class in Supercross this season and none on a 250, so he is starting with zero points in the SuperMotocross seeding, but with runs like this it won’t take long to make up the 89 he needs to climb to 20th.

One of the best performances of the weekend was put in by Vohland. He finished second in Moto 1 and had to withstand pressure from Lawrence in the closing lap. A poor start of 16th in the second race forced him to play catchup and he could only climb to ninth at the checkers.

2023 Supercross Results

Round 17: Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence win
Round 16: Chase Sexton, RJ Hampshire win
Round 15: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 14: Justin Barcia, Max Anstie win
Round 13: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 12: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Eli Tomac, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 16: Chase Sexton takes SX title
Week 15: Eli Tomac is back on top
Week 14: Justin Barcia, most of top 20, hold steady
Week 13: Barcia leapfrogs the Big Three
Week 12: Eli Tomac gains momentum
Week 11: Cooper Webb, Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
Week 10: Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Sexton unseats Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s