John Darby won't spend a lot of time talking about the details of his departure from NASCAR. Yes, he's leaving. But the hows and the whys are not something to be talked about as much as his three decades in the sport.
Darby had served as the Sprint Cup Series director for 12 years before being replaced by Richard Buck prior to the 2014 season. A former racer before becoming a track official in Rockford, Illinois, Darby spent more than 25 years working for NASCAR and was the director of what is now the Xfinity Series from 1999 to 2001 prior to his promotion to run the sport's top series.
Calling himself a "blessed individual," Darby is in his final days at NASCAR with no job on the horizon.
"I think I'm going to take a month and sit on a beach and figure out what I really want to do next," the 59-year-old said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Darby is known as a no-nonsense official who helped create a more consistent inspection process. He said one of his biggest accomplishments was the creation of the one-engine rule, which cut costs considerably for teams. He also was involved in several of NASCAR's initiatives to make its cars safer.
"I'm very thankful for the opportunities that I've had -- and also thankful that I took them and did something with them instead of dropping the ball," Darby said. "When my grandkids start reading the history books, they'll be able to see a few chapters where grandpa was involved pretty heavily. That means more to me than anything."
From 2010 through 2014, Darby also was NASCAR's managing director of competition, a role that included oversight of all series directors. At the time he was appointed, Darby had indicated he would step down from the Sprint Cup director position when a suitable replacement was found. He had most recently been working on special projects, including the electronic rulebook and the new pit road officiating system.
His role at NASCAR had obviously changed in the last 16 months, and it was strange to see many weekends go by without Darby at the track where he loved the interaction with competitors.
So was he fired? Was it one of those mutual "parting of the ways" or what? NASCAR officials would only confirm that he's leaving.
"I'll be honest with you, the importance of that part, to me, is nothing," Darby said when asked whether his leaving was a mutual decision. "What's more important is where I've been, what I've been involved in and what I hope to see grow in the future."
Darby's departure after a 25-year career with NASCAR is another sign of a leadership shift in the sport. NASCAR recently moved president Mike Helton to a vice chairman role as NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell began taking more of a competition and race car development oversight role in the last couple of years.
NASCAR hired Gene Stefanyshyn, who had spent more than 30 years in vehicle design at General Motors, in 2013 to manage race car development and innovation. Buck had overseen NASCAR's touring divisions for several years and worked on NASCAR's sports car program before taking over the Sprint Cup Series in 2014.
"At the end of the day, as I do leave the company, I will never leave the sport," Darby said. "It's in my heart and my veins and it will always be there.
"At the same time, I think that I'm leaving it in a better spot than what it was when I got here. That's all that matters to me. ... Everything is good. I'm still a stronghold and an ally for NASCAR and the sport of NASCAR. That is something that will never go away."