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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