John Wes Townley, a former NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series driver, was killed in a shooting in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday. The Athens Banner-Herald reported the news the next day. He was 31.
According to Athens-Clarke County Police Department spokesperson Lt. Shaun Barnett, police responded to a home shooting in the Five Points neighbourhood on Saturday night. Townley and a 30-year-old woman were shot, with the former dying from his injuries at hospital while the latter suffered “serious” wounds. A 32-year-old man who has ties to Townley is suspected to be the perpetrator, and police has since been in contact and he was not immediately charged. Barnett also added the case may have stemmed from a domestic violence dispute. The investigation is ongoing as of this article’s publishing.
Townley is the son of Tony Townley, the founder of the Zaxby’s chicken fast-food franchise chain; Zaxby’s frequently sponsored the younger Townley, and his race cars were painted a bright yellow that certainly caught one’s eye on track. He began racing in NASCAR’s national series in 2008 with starts in both the Truck and now-Xfinity Series before running much of the 2009 Xfinity schedule with RAB Racing. Throughout his early career, he developed a reputation for aggressive driving and his involvement in wrecks, resulting in the dubious moniker of “John Wrecks Weekly”. Such matters were amplified in 2012 when he wrecked in practice for his Cup Series début at Pocono, which was ultimately aborted.
Despite his struggles, he eventually found his footing in the Truck Series and began competing on a full-time basis with RAB in 2012. In 2014, the Townley family formed Athenian Motorsports and his Truck campaign the following year produced great results as he scored a career-high nine top tens, three top fives, and his maiden NASCAR victory at Las Vegas. Incidentally, the win came six years prior to Sunday’s news.
He retired from racing after the 2016 season to attend college. In 110 career Truck starts, he notched twenty-four top tens, five top fives, two poles, the Vegas win, and a best points finish of eighth in 2015. He also scored two wins in what is now the ARCA Menards Series at Daytona in 2013 and 2016.