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."