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.