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."