PHOENIX - APRIL 09: John Wes Townley, driver of the #21 Zaxby's Chevrolet, looks at his car after a crash during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on April 9, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
John Wes Townley, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.
Think about that for a moment. Townley, the Zaxby's-backed driver who has never recorded a top-10 finish in 57 starts between the Nationwide and Truck Series, is getting a chance to drive in Cup. He's entered in the No. 32 FAS Lane Racing car for Pocono, which is already locked into the race.
This is a sad, sad, sad day for NASCAR. When this blatant of a buy-a-ride situation comes to the Sprint Cup Series, everyone is a loser.
Drivers have always been able to use family money or personal sponsors to purchase a spot in the race, but typically the most glaring examples have happened in Nationwide and Trucks. Despite the weak economy, there are still very few opportunities to buy a Cup ride, and everyone prefers to tell themselves the Sprint Cup Series consists of "the best 43 stock car drivers in the world."
But that hasn't always been the case lately, and it certainly won't be the case with Townley in the race.
Too harsh? Absolutely not. In 41 career Nationwide races, Townley has more DNFs (14) than lead-lap finishes (eight). He recently earned his all-time best NASCAR result, which was a mediocre 14th-place finish in the Chicagoland Truck race.
In no way is John Wes Townley a Cup-caliber race car driver. He does not belong on track in the Sprint Cup Series.
Those of you who don't know are asking: Well, then how did he get a Cup ride, then? FAS Lane Racing must think he's a promising driver, right?
No. They are happy to get the money Townley brings to the team. Townley's father, Tony, is a co-founder of the Zaxby's fast food chicken restaurant, and FAS Lane is likely getting a healthy sum to put Townley in its car.
While it helps FAS Lane stay in business, this is a bad deal for NASCAR's image because of all the talented young drivers who would love to get in a Cup car but can't because they don't have the money. The list is too long to name here, but consider this: Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne will not be in the Pocono race, but John Wes Townley will be.
It's embarrassing for the sport to have reached this point. A rich kid can't buy his way into Major League Baseball or the NFL, but in NASCAR? If you – yes, you, dear reader – had the financial backing, you could run a few Truck and Nationwide races, get approved for a NASCAR license and be racing with your favorite Cup drivers within a year or two.
Hey, Junior! Hey, Jimmie! Hey, Tony! I'm a Cup driver just like y'all now! Wheeeeeeee!
Quite frankly, this is a disgusting development. NASCAR needs John Wes Townley in the Sprint Cup Series like Indianapolis needs more seats for the Brickyard 400.
On the other hand, at least we know Pocono won't be a caution-free race.