John Wes Townley Charged With DUI After Car Crash In Georgia

Camping World Truck Series driver wrecks new BMW, gets arrested for driving under the influence.

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19 Total Updates since February 20, 2010
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John Wes Townley Apologizes For DUI, Looks Forward To NASCAR Return

John Wes Townley will climb into a race truck this morning for his first official NASCAR action since Sept. 2010, but before doing so he met with reporters to apologize for his recent DUI arrest.

"This is something I'm really serious about as an individual," he said Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway. "What happened that night, I take full responsibility for it. I don't want it reflected poorly on my team, my sponsors, and I want to sincerely apologize."

Townley crashed his 2012 BMW into a telephone pole in the early morning hours of Feb. 7, then showed up bleeding and disoriented at a nearby home and was arrested.

RAB Racing, his Camping World Truck Series team, suspended him for one Truck race. NASCAR put him on probation for the rest of the year and will test him frequently for alcohol.

Asked if he had a drinking problem (the DUI was Townley's second alcohol-related incident), the driver said he wasn't sure because he was being evaluated.

"I don't know the answer as far as the problem goes," he said. "Going forward, I'm sure I'll learn that and we'll go from there."

Townley said he was drinking with friends on the night of his arrest and returned home, but had to get up early the next morning to get fitted for a seat at the RAB Racing shop. The driver said it was a foggy morning and he ran off the road into a pole, then knocked on the door of a nearby residence because he'd left his cell phone at home.

"This was just a horrible lack of judgment on my part," he said of drinking and driving. "... I could have injured people, I could have hurt people really bad. It's really selfish of me."

Aside from the DUI arrest, Townley's return to NASCAR is noteworthy because of his lengthy layoff.

Townley had left NASCAR abruptly, failing to show up on the morning of the Sept. 2010 Nationwide Series race at Richmond without explanation.

Looking back now, the driver said he needed to reevaluate how he felt about racing and his life in general.

"I didn't really know where I was at the time," he said. "I just needed that time to step back and re-think what I wanted out of life. Coming back into it, I really just wanted to give it another shot. I certainly didn't want to leave it the way I left it. I really wanted to get back into it and show some people that I can really perform out there."

In the time since he last raced, Townley said he's mostly just been "taking it easy a little bit" to help figure out what he wanted to do.

"I know now that stepping back from (racing) forever is not the answer," he said. "I found out halfway through the off-year that this is something I need to get back doing, because I just wasn't happy without it."

Townley said his dream has always been to "become one of the big guys out there in the Cup Series," and he's not ready to let go of that hope yet.

"All the hardships I may have to face to get there, it's worth keeping it up," he said.

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John Wes Townley Charged With DUI After Car Wreck In Georgia

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver John Wes Townley was charged with driving under the influence after crashing his 2012 BMW into a telephone pole in Georgia, the Athens Banner-Herald reported Friday.

The incident, which occurred early Tuesday morning, came to the attention of the Oconee County Sheriff's Department when a 911 call reported "a suspicious man knocking on the back door of a home" at 4:30 a.m.

Sheriff's deputies arrived to find a disoriented Townley "swaying from side to side and bleeding from his bare feet," the report said. Townley was arrested and charged with DUI and weaving in the roadway.

The newspaper said deputies found blood on the seat of the car, which had its airbags deployed in the crash.

Townley's incident could be a blow to the 22-year-old's NASCAR comeback. The son of Zaxby's co-founder Tony Townley is attempting to revive his career with RAB Racing, which formerly fielded Nationwide cars for the driver.

RAB Racing team owner Robby Benton said he was still gathering facts about the incident and preferred to withhold public comment until he had more information about the situation.

This isn't the first time Townley has found trouble with authorities on an alcohol-related offense. In 2010, Townley was cited for underage possession of alcohol during the Las Vegas race weekend (he was a Richard Childress Racing driver then).

"I made a big mistake and feel terrible about it," Townley said at the time. "I have learned a valuable lesson and will do everything I can to make it up to those I have let down."

Townley was released from RCR due to performance issues the month after the Las Vegas incident and given a second chance by RAB Racing.

But he mysteriously left RAB during the Richmond race weekend that summer and had apparently given up on NASCAR for good.

Benton decided to give Townley another shot this season, though, and the driver is set to run a full Camping World Truck Series schedule for the team.

NASCAR had no immediate comment on Townley's incident, though it has previously allowed drivers charged with DUI to race.

The most recent example was Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett, who was arrested for DWI last February but still allowed to race at Daytona.

UPDATE: The Oconee County Sheriff's Department posted Townley's mug shot on its Facebook page this afternoon.

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UPDATE 2: Townley has been indefinitely suspended by RAB Racing, the team announced Friday night.

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John Wes Townley Returns To NASCAR With Camping World Truck Series Ride

He's baaaaaaack!

John Wes Townley, the infamous "Chicken Man" who once seemed to wreck on a weekly basis, has announced an unlikely return to NASCAR.

Townley will drive for RAB Racing in the Camping World Truck Series and race a full-season schedule beginning with Daytona Speedweeks, the team said. The last time Townley raced in NASCAR, he was seen driving an RAB Nationwide Series car in 2010 – but then he suddenly disappeared and hadn't been heard from in more than a year.

According to an RAB press release, Townley will be backed by "new sponsors" and there was no mention of Zaxby's, the fast-food chicken restaurant of which his father, Tony, is a co-founder.

The Zaxby's sponsorship earned Townley his "Chicken Man" nickname, a reference to the old Stroker Ace movie in which the Burt Reynolds title character is sponsored by a chicken restaurant.

But for much of his NASCAR tenure, Townley was hardly the "Fastest Chicken in the South," as Stroker Ace was. Townley struggled immensely and wrecked car after car when he started.

Despite his lack of success, Townley was hired by Richard Childress Racing at the start of the 2010 season (along with his family's sponsorship). But he only lasted until April before RCR pulled the plug on his tenure with the team (but kept the sponsorship for the rest of the year).

RAB re-hired Townley in July of that year, but he only lasted about six weeks before he baffled RAB by not showing up to Richmond International Raceway on the day of a race. Puzzlingly, the team never heard from him again...until recently, it seems.

Now Townley is back – although the "Chicken Man" nickname may not be as fitting without Zaxby's on the hood – and will run for Rookie of the Year honors in the Truck Series. He's made seven career Truck starts (for Roush Fenway Racing) with a top finish of 18th and three DNFs.

JWT's return could be ugly, and he could wreck plenty of Trucks this season. On the other hand, perhaps a more mature Townley will be better this time around.

Either way, Townley's strange story gives us something to talk about – and for that, we're grateful.

Welcome back, Chicken Man!

Related: Read our "Salute to the Chicken Man" (May 2010)

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John Wes Townley's NASCAR Future A Mystery To Former Team

John Wes Townley is no longer with RAB Racing, but don't ask his former team owner Robby Benton why.

Benton has no idea, saying he was "baffled" by a sudden turn of events that led to Townley's departure from the team. The future of the Zaxby's-sponsored driver in NASCAR is unknown.

"I don't have any explanation or reason why John Wes is not still in our car," Benton said Saturday at Dover. "We had an agreement to run the rest of the year, and they decided for whatever reason to not honor that agreement."

Townley was with the team for a test day at Richmond two weeks ago and planned to run the Richmond Nationwide Series race the following night.

Because the son of Zaxby's co-founder Tony Townley is also taking college courses near the family's Georgia home, John Wes returned to Georgia that evening to participate in a night class.

The expectation was that Townley would return the following day and drive in the Richmond race. Instead, Benton received a call from Tony Townley at 5:30 a.m. the next morning saying John Wes was ill and would not be able to participate in the race.

Benton tapped Landon Cassill as a replacement, but it was expected Townley would return to the team and finish out the season.

That didn't happen. Benton was instead notified by an e-mail from Tony Townley that Zaxby's was discontinuing its relationship with the team, citing poor performance.

John Wes had started the year by leaving RAB for Richard Childress Racing but was kicked out of his ride after only five races. He returned to RAB for another try at driving and ran four races with finishes of 24th, 17th, 27th and 22nd – but didn't wreck in any of them.

"The goals were get him back in the series, get his reputation and confidence built back up," Benton said. "He was happy. Everything was good."

Then, suddenly, he was gone. Zaxby's departure now leaves RAB Racing in survival mode, even though the team won a race last month at Montreal with driver Boris Said.

"We're back to square one (as far as sponsorship)," Benton said. "I still have a lot of respect and appreciation for them coming back to us. Ultimately, it led to us being able to go to Montreal and win."

Benton said he's completely in the dark as to whether Townley plans to return to NASCAR (attempts to reach Townley for this story have not been successful). All of Townley's seats, helmets and firesuits are still at the RAB Racing shop.

"All communications have been severed," Benton said. "They won't return e-mails, texts, phone calls. I have no idea. I haven't heard any rumors."

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A Salute To John Wes Townley, The Chicken Man

John Wes Townley's tenure at Richard Childress Racing – and perhaps in NASCAR – appears to be over.

RCR announced a "revised" sponsorship plan for its No. 21 car on Friday, a plan which includes sponsor Zaxby's but not Townley, whose father is one of the fast-food company's founders.

Zaxby's will cut back to 21 races this season of an originally-scheduled 35, and drivers Clint Bowyer and Scott Riggs will split duties behind the wheel.

Townley was not mentioned in the RCR press release as being on the schedule for any more events.

That's certainly a disappointing ending for the "Chicken Man," who RCR pledged to help develop as a driver but only waited through five races of wrecked cars and poor finishes before giving him the boot.

In a shrewd move by team owner Richard Childress, RCR kept the sponsorship money Townley brought to the team (albeit for less races) without having Townley actually in the seat.

There's no word on Townley's future or whether he'll try to stay in the sport, but he hasn't been spotted at the track since being pulled from the car at Phoenix.

If this is the end for Townley, his career will finish with some astounding statistics. In 34 career starts, Townley:

  • Finished on the lead lap six times
  • Recorded 11 DNFs (Did Not Finish)
  • Failed to qualify for 10 races
  • Had a best career finish of 15th
  • Did hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to stock cars

And yet, Townley will be missed. In a series that is all-too-often dominated by Sprint Cup regulars, Townley was a fascinating sideshow for fans. You never knew what he was going to do next and his frequent visits with the wall made him a topic of conversation.

If he does not return, we plan to declare Townley as the winner of "The Bet." Why? Because the bet was for whoever finished higher in head-to-head races between Townley and Danica Patrick.

And Townley was better in all three. That's a clean sweep.

Maybe the problem wasn't Townley, but the curse of the Chicken Car. Townley had an average finish of 22.4 in five starts this season; his replacement, Clint Bowyer, has an average finish of 23.2 in six races.

Will JWT ever return? Only time will tell. But if not, better get your checkbooks out for charity.

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