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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.
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.
UPDATE 2: Townley has been indefinitely suspended by RAB Racing, the team announced Friday night.
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)
As it turned out, 'The Bet' didn't last for as many races as we thought it would be.
But in the head-to-head competition between John Wes Townley and Danica Patrick, Townley was victorious with a clean 4-0 sweep.
That's right – in the four races in which both drivers participated, the former driver known as the "Chicken Man" finished ahead of Patrick every time.
As such, it seems it's time for the 17 people who bet on the Go Daddy girl in our preseason charity bet to pay up.
The Twitter IDs of those people are:
TheSpeedZone - $100 to Greg Biffle Foundation
Spunk72 - $100 to Victory Junction
Roadie6 - $100 to Victory Junction
Dcumbow - $100 to Victory Junction
Stevemichalik - $100 to Kyle Busch Foundation
Becbeat555 - $100 to Victory Junction
Robsanx - $100 to Greg Biffle Foundation
MsHarleyLuxury - $100 to Victory Junction
Ancienthacker - $100 to Tony Stewart Foundation
Hogfan1980 - $50 to Victory Junction
Kicknthetires - $50 to Victory Junction
Girlwithneedles - $50 to Tony Stewart Foundation
Mmar0260185 - $25 to Greg Biffle Foundation, 25 to Hendrick Marrow Program
Canadian_Speed - $25 to Second String Santa of Charlotte
Ericasberry - $50 to American Diabetes Association
Peggyracer3 - $25 to Victory Junction
RvNGrammy - $10 to Victory Junction
Of course, some of those who bet on Townley to win are also invited to donate the money. Personally, my $100 bet on Townley will be headed to Victory Junction Gang Camp (you can click here to see the full list of bettors).
Overall, the 17 people who pledged money if Danica lost totaled $1,185. Hopefully, with the Townley bettors, it'll exceed that number.
'The Bet' was established as a tongue-in-cheek look at Patrick's first season in NASCAR. Predictions for her success were so widespread (and seemingly incorrect) that I challenged readers to take one side or the other: Danica or Townley, who had been the worst NASCAR driver of 2009.
Townley, the champion of 'The Bet,' is apparently now retired. His whereabouts are unknown in the racing community and there is no word that he is expected to return.
Patrick, as you know, isn't going anywhere for now. Stay tuned for 'The Bet, Part II' in 2011.
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."
'The Bet' is turning into a one-sided affair.
John Wes Townley extended his lead over Danica Patrick by finishing 17th on Saturday afternoon at Michigan, besting Danica's 27th-place finish to take a 4-0 lead in our friendly charity wager.
The "Chicken Man" remained undefeated against Danica in SB Nation's bet with fans to see which driver could finish ahead of the other more often during races in which they both participated.
Running against Danica for the first time since February, Townley managed a lead-lap finish at Michigan and had his second-best result in seven races this season.
Danica's result was her second-best of the season, too, but she ended the day four laps behind the leaders.
As you may imagine, our coverage of this bet has pleased those who think Danica is overrated but has angered her fans, some of whom are eager to defend her.
Some Danica fans with short memories of Townley's struggles have claimed that our bet is unfair, given that Townley has 36 races of stock-car experience and Danica has only six.
So just for argument's sake, let's compare Townley's first six career Nationwide races against Danica's:
John Wes Townley's first six career races: 30th, 27th, 38th, 21st, 22nd, 38th. Average finish: 29.3
Danica Patrick's first six career races: 35th, 31st, 36th, 30th, 24th, 27th. Average finish: 30.5
So even though Townley began his NASCAR career in inferior equipment compared to JR Motorsports' Patrick, he still had a better average finish during his first six races than she does.
The Chicken Man is back.
John Wes Townley will return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series this weekend at Iowa Speedway, RAB Racing team owner Robby Benton told SBNation.com on Tuesday.
Townley spent last season with RAB Racing but left to join Richard Childress Racing this year along with sponsorship from Zaxby's, the fast food chicken company which his father co-founded. He had little success, however, and was removed from RCR's No. 21 car after crashing in practice at Phoenix.
Discouraged with his results, Townley swore off racing and returned home to Georgia, where he worked on his grandfather's farm and enrolled at a community college.
But Townley eventually decided to give NASCAR another shot, beginning at Iowa. Benton said the tentative plan is to run Townley in a "handful" of races, which includes Iowa, Bristol, Dover and possibly some others.
"Originally, I guess I was a little bitter at the situation (after losing his RCR ride)," Townley said Tuesday while getting fitted for his seat at the RAB Racing shop. "But at this point in time, I guess I finally came around to my senses that if I ever were to walk away from it, I want it to be on my feet – not somebody else's."
To this point in his career, Townley has mostly been in the spotlight for his wrecks. But Benton said he truly believes the Zaxby's driver can be successful if given a proper chance.
"I wouldn't get behind this if I didn't feel like we could be successful," Benton said. "I don't think by any stretch of the imagination he's going to go out and set the world on fire like, 'Oh my God, who's this guy?'
"But I think over the course of a few months, we're going to get him back in the swing of things. We're going to do the best job we can for him."
Benton said the goals for now are modest. The team wants Townley "to have fun and enjoy doing this again."
And as a former driver himself, Benton said he realizes running in the back or wrecking cars is not fun.
But Benton said he believes if Townley knows he has the full, unequivocal support of a team behind him, the 20-year-old can – and will – succeed.
Townley said the Iowa race will be a test to see if a comeback is something that he feels is worth pursuing.
"The number one goal is to try to see if this is one of those things that I really missed doing – and I feel like it is," he said. "Once I get out there, I'm going to know that. There may be a few (other races) in line after that, too, but first things first."
Though Townley was as soft-spoken and mild-mannered as ever, he seemed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder to prove something to his doubters and the Childress team that let him go.
"I think this weekend will be a good chance for me to show 'em, so to speak – whatever that may be," he said. "I took a little break and stepped away and sorted a few things out. I'm ready to go now."
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:
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.
John Wes Townley will not drive this weekend at Texas, a Richard Childress Racing team spokeswoman said. Clint Bowyer will be in the No. 21 car instead.
RCR’s Lisa Cox said Townley “is still with RCR.”
“At this point the future driver schedule is still in discussion,” she said.
Townley also missed last weekend’s race at Phoenix after he wrecked the team’s primary car in practice. The 20-year-old is sponsored by Zaxby's, which will continue to sponsor the car despite Townley's absence.
John Wes Townley’s future will become clearer on Tuesday, according to a report from Lee Spencer of FoxSports.com.
Townley did not participate in Friday’s race at Phoenix after crashing during practice. He has maintained a similar pace in terms of wrecking cars as he did at RAB Racing last year.
But that may not be acceptable much longer at Richard Childress Racing, according to Spencer’s report.
Spencer wrote that Townley will meet with RCR officials on Tuesday “to discuss his schedule going forward.”
He has not been fired by the team, a team spokesman said Friday.
Townley races with sponsorship from Zaxby's, the fast-food chicken chain which was co-founded by his father.
John Wes Townley will not race in tonight’s Nationwide Series event at Phoenix, but a team spokesman said it was not due to Townley’s performance.
Townley crashed during Nationwide practice earlier Friday, and the hard hit was the reason the 20-year-old will not race tonight, according to the team.
Clint Bowyer will replace Townley in the No. 21 car.
“Richard [Childress] removed Townley from the car today for precautionary reasons following his accident today, much like we did with [Jeff] Burton and Casey Mears at Texas” in last fall’s Nationwide race, RCR’s Kevin Heaney said via e-mail.
Heaney added: “The rumor about him being fired is not true.”
Nationwide Series director Joe Balash was a guest on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online chat on Wednesday, and came up with a surprising name when he listed the drivers who could win a race this season.
Asked by a reader which non-Cup drivers could win, Balash responded with the following (Note: Spelling left as is):
Q: Todd, Greendale – OK, so Allgaier won Bristol … But how many races do you think will be won this year by non-Cup guys (and who)?
A: Joe Balash – I think the competitive balance is very good at the start of the season. We have a number of drivers that could win races this year. The list is long so let me give it a shot. Justin could win more, Steve Wallace, Mike Wallace is coming on this year, Jason Leffler has a shot at a number of tracks, James Buescher, Trevor Bayne, Brian Scott, John Wes Townley ran very strong at Bristol and never count out Kelly Bires in the Jr Motorsports cars. As well as Ricky Stenhouse, he has been involved in some stuff on the tracks in our first events but he is in equipment that can win and has the tallant to do it. The Nationwide Series if strong with tallant this year.
So there you have it, folks. We could be seeing Chicken Man in victory lane sometime soon. To see the rest of Balash's chat, click here.< /p>
By the way, Townley leads Danica Patrick 3-0 in “The Bet." Danica returns to NASCAR in June.
John Wes Townley finished a career-high 15th at the Las Vegas Nationwide race, taking a 3-0 lead over Danica Patrick in "The Bet."
But Townley's run was lost in the news that he had been cited for underage possession of alcohol in Las Vegas on Thursday night.
"We're real sorry," he said after the race, walking quickly toward his hauler. "It was a bad mistake. I certainly respect RCR and Zaxby's. Tonight, it was just a good run and ended up 15th and I'm really looking forward to Bristol."
Townley said NASCAR tested him during the race weekend, but he was allowed to race.
"There were some things that had to be done, but nothing out of the ordinary," he said.
Asked if he thought his future at RCR was unaffected and if would still be on track in the No. 21 car, Townley replied, "Yes, I'm 100 percent confident that it is. Excited for the next race."
Earlier, team owner Richard Childress and NASCAR released statements on the matter. Click here for more.
For a recap of Danica Patrick's 36th-place finish and wreck, click here.
John Wes Townley, 20, was cited for underage possession of alcohol on Thursday night in Las Vegas.
NASCAR allowed him to participate in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Vegas, though his future was unclear.
“I want to apologize to NASCAR, everyone at Richard Childress Racing and all of our sponsors,” the Zaxby’s-sponsored Townley said in a statement released during the race. "I made a big mistake and feel terrible about it.
“I have learned a valuable lesson and will do everything I can to make it up to those I have let down.”
Team owner Richard Childress said Townley was aware that he made “a serious error in judgment.”
“Drivers are human and make mistakes like everyone else,” Childress said. “However, we do not condone his behavior and will be handling it as an internal matter at RCR.”
NASCAR said in a statement it was "aware of the situation."
"We have met with the driver and addressed the matter with him directly," the statement said.
Stay tuned for more updates after the race.
John Wes Townley flirted with finishing worse than Danica Patrick in Fontana, but the Chicken Man held off the GoDaddy Girl for 30th place in a fight that took place three laps down.
Townley ran better than his result, but consecutive speeding penalties midway through the race hurt his efforts. Danica was a complete non-factor for most of the day and was two laps down within about 30 laps.
"Having to just stay out of the way and not being able to race is never fun," Townley said. "But we're going to go to Las Vegas and we're going to make the best of that race. We've got a long way to go and we're going to do it."
But Townley wasn't out of the way enough, at least according to Paul Menard. The veteran (who finished 19th) lectured Townley on pit road for racing too hard.
"I was mad at Townley [because] he was three laps down and racing lead-lap cars on the green-white-checkered," Menard said. "He's pretty new at this, but he's been around long enough to know better than that. Whatever. It is what it is, hopefully he'll learn."
Townley was puzzled by Menard's anger, saying, "I can't figure it out, honestly. I'll just have to look back at the tape, but I can't see anything I did wrong."
As for Danica, she led some of the media on an adventure from pit road to her hauler, then took between 15 to 20 minutes to come out and talk.
"It's overwhelming when somebody wants to talk to you when you just get out of the car," she said. "I'm a competitor and I want to run up front and it's shocking when you get that far back. But you know what? This is a whole new ball of wax for me and it's all different."
The media was given strict instructions: Cameras go first, then print reporters. Three questions each.
When a writer attempted to ask a question too early, Danica shot him a look and said, "Are we doing print now, too?"
The score: Townley 2, Danica 0 with 11 races remaining.
Score one for John Wes.
Townley struck first in the head-to-head matchup of the “Chicken Man” against the GoDaddy megastar, beating Danica at Daytona.
Despite finishing two laps down in 23rd place, Townley bested Danica, who was caught up in a crash and placed 35th.
The race was also notable for Townley’s bizarre surge of fame: During the race, “John Wes Townley” became the No. 3 trending Twitter topic in the United States.
When Danica Patrick announced she was coming to NASCAR last December, I felt sure she was in for a rough road.
In fact, I was so confident that I said John Wes Townley (the whipping boy for much of the garage due to his frequent wrecks last season) would out-run Danica head-to-head in more than half the Nationwide Series races in which they both participated.
To back my words up, I pledged $100 to Victory Junction Gang Camp if I was wrong and asked readers to join in.
Of the 57 people who pledged money to a charity of their choice, 40 agreed with me that Townley would finish better than Danica (pledging $3,050.25 for 16 different charities); 17 felt Danica would out-perform "John Wrecks Townley" (a nickname I did not invent) and pledged $1,185 to six charities.
Please feel free to add to our charity bet by adding your comments below.
See the details of the individual bets in the original story on SceneDaily.com here.
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