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Townley Set to Retire, Athenian Motorsports to Shut Down

A wild NASCAR off-season became even more topsy-turvy after it was announced in a report by WSBRadio.com that John Wes Townley has decided to end his racing career.

The 27-year-old Watkinsville, GA native has decided to expand his horizons beyond racing and focus on his personal life. Townley, according to the report, will begin taking college courses. Just last year he got engaged to his longtime girlfriend Laura Bird.

Townley, who has been racing since a young age broke into NASCAR at the age of 18 and has competed in both NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. He found the most success on the Truck Series side scoring his first career win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2015 and went on to finish eighth in the final championship standings that season.

Townley also found success in the ARCA Racing Series by winning the season opener at the Daytona International Speedway in 2013 and 2016.

Athenian Motorsports, which is owned by Townley’s father Tony Townley, had fielded entries in ARCA, XFINITY, and Trucks with Zaxby’s sponsorship. The team has begun the process of selling off its inventory.

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Trucks

Coughlin to Sub for Townley in Texas

John Wes Townley suffered a non-racing-related injury to his left ankle and will sit out Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. As a result, Cody Coughlin will drive the No. 05 Zaxby’s Chevrolet Silverado.

“I want to wish John Wes a speedy recovery and hope he’s back at the track soon,” Coughlin said. “I’m honored that Athenian Motorsports thought of me to drive their truck this weekend.”

Coughlin has made nine starts this season in the Camping World Truck Series, with his best finish coming at Texas Motor Speedway in the June race, where he finished 12th for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

The Ohio native is looking to make the most of his opportunity this weekend.

“I like Texas a lot. I had a lot of speed when I ran the truck there this summer,” he said. “I feel like I can really get around that place and Athenian’s trucks are fast. I think that’s going to make for a good weekend for us.”

John Wes Townley missed two races earlier this season with concussion-like symptoms at Kentucky Speedway and Eldora Speedway in July.

The Striping Technology 350 from Texas Motor Speedway is slated to go green at 8:49 p.m. ET and can be seen on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio.

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com
TWITTER: @ShaneCarlson4

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

Three Drivers Get Opportunity at Kentucky

Three teams in the Camping World Truck Series have announced driver changes ahead of the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky this weekend.

Red Horse Racing announced Tuesday Brett Moffitt will drive the No. 11 Toyota Tundra in place of Matt Tifft, who is recovering from surgery to remove a low-grade glioma in the brain. This will be the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year’s third career start in the Truck Series and second in Kentucky.

“Obviously, we’re thinking of Matt and can’t wait for him to return, so we’re sending him our best wishes, and we hope to see him back at the track soon,” Moffitt said. “I hate that it’s under these circumstances, but I’m really grateful for this opportunity with Red Horse Racing, and I hope it can lead to more.”

Secondly, Athenian Motorsports announced on Wednesday Parker Kligerman will fill in for John Wes Townley in the No. 05 Jive Communications Chevrolet as he undergoes treatment for a possible concussion. Kligerman, who also works as a NASCAR analyst for NBC Sports Network, has had eight Truck Series starts this season, three of which were top ten finishes. However, he has not competed in the series since May 13 at Dover.

Lastly, Young’s Motorsports announced Wednesday Austin Hill will drive the No. 02 Young’s Building Systems / Randco Chevrolet Silverado, which is typically driven by Tyler Young. Young has made the decision to forego competing each week himself to give other drivers a chance. Just a couple weeks ago, he put Derek Scott Jr. behind the wheel for Iowa Speedway.

“With us not having a prime opportunity to compete for the championship, we have jumped at the chance to work with others and bring outside knowledge in knowing it has the potential to strengthen our program overall,” said Young. “The ability to work with a talented driver like Austin Hill not only provides a great opportunity to bring fresh insight but also bounce ideas off not only me but my crew chief Andrew Abbott as well. For us, it’s a win-win situation.”

Though all three of the drivers have had at least some experience in the Truck Series, some may say they haven’t had quite the level of success as the people whose shoes they are filling this week. Maybe this opportunity can change all that.

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

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Trucks

VIDEO: JWT Over Gallagher by Decision

Short tracks produce tempers, and sometimes tempers turn into fights. That was the case on Saturday night for the Camping World Truck Series.

John Wes Townley and Spencer Gallagher got together on the track, resulting in both trucks crashing in the corner with two laps in the Drivin’ For Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park. After climbing from their trucks, the pair engaged in a fight on the racing surface – with Fox Sports 1’s commentators offering their opinions.

It’s not the first time the pair have crossed paths before, as they argued at Salem Speedway in ARCA in 2013, followed by an argument at Iowa Speedway in 2014.

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Townley Turns up the Heat with Season-Best

A top-11 start for @JWTownley ended with a sixth-place finish in Friday night’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Georgia native settled into the eighth spot to start the race and after a round of pit stops on Lap 20, Townley was in the sixth position. He battled for top-10 track position during the 134-lap race with race winner @kaseykahne, a dominant @erik_jones, and Sprint Cup Series Champion Brad @keselowski. He fought a loose truck and nearly lost it as Jones passed him on lap eight.

Townley showed initiative in a green-white-checkered finish in Friday night’s race. He restarted 10th and quickly dropped a spot as he spun the tires attempting to get up to speed. Once he got a hold of the No. 5 Zaxby’s Chevrolet, he slid the truck high into Turn 1 and passed two competitors. He then dove to the bottom of the track in the center of the turn. Suddenly, he was sixth.

@TimothyPeters17 slid up the race track, and Townley gathered another spot right before the white flag flew. He got close to the bumper of last year’s champion @Matt_Crafton but lost a little bit of the edge of his run on the backstretch. Keselowski closed the gap and battled Townley for the fifth place position. They were door-to-door when they crossed the finish line. Keselowski just bumped Townley out of a top-five finish at the stripe.

“We weren’t very good in practice on Thursday.  It looked like we were going to finish tenth in the race Friday night, until that last caution came out to set up the green-white-checkered finish,” he said. “I got a good restart at the end and gained four spots. We nearly beat the 29 (Keselowski) at the finish line for fifth.

“Sixth isn’t bad. All in all, (crew chief) Michael Shelton and the guys on the team did a great job with our truck.  We barely missed top five finishes at Kansas and Charlotte. I can’t wait to get to Dover in two weeks. I’ve always considered that place one of my favorite race tracks.”

Friday night’s effort is a season-high finish for Townley in the five races he has competed in this season. Townley has finished outside the top-20 in one of the five races this season. His average finish last year in the Truck Series was 24th. He has shown improvement with two 12th place finishes to his credit this season along with an eighth and Friday night’s sixth place spot in the unofficial race results.

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Trucks

Truck Series Talladega Notebook

By Matt Weaver (TALLADEGA, Ala.) — The complexion of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship picture took a dramatic turn on Saturday afternoon in the Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Points leader Matt Crafton survived to a 14th-place finish while teammate Johnny Sauter, who entered only 16 markers back, punctured a radiator and was dealt a damning blow to his title hopes with a P31 finish. Combined with top-10 efforts by Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace, it appears that ThorSport Racing may have lost a considerable amount of momentum with only four races remaining until a champion is crowned.

Blaney is now second and 16 points back while Wallace is third and 28 behind. Sauter dropped from second to fourth and now sits 36 points (nearly a full race) out of the lead.

Running sixth on lap 24, Sauter slowed on the backstretch and was forced to bring his Toyota Tundra to pit road — and eventually the garage — for a leaky radiator. The ThorSport veteran believes he ran over a bolt that initiated the damage that may has dealt a critical blow to his championship bid.

“The water temperature never showed anything,” Sauter said. “We’re out of the race — the motor is blown up and it’s really unfortunate. I hate it for everybody. We’ll lick our wounds and go to the next one.”

Meanwhile, Crafton had an eventful day complete with several stops on pit road to address his woeful front downforce, serving a NASCAR penalty for push-drafting and cycling in-and-out of the top-10. Crafton looked poised to contend for the win but circumstances and the battle royale atmosphere shuffled him to the edges of the top-15.

“We didn’t have the day we had hoped for, but it was a decent day for us points wise,” Crafton said. “We didn’t gain any points but we didn’t lose many points. Talladega was marked as the wild card race on our calendars and I guess we survived it.

“It could have been a lot worse.”

The final four races of the season will be contested at Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.

John Wes Townley, Plate Ace

John Wes Townley has posted a single career restrictor plate victory — albeit in the ARCA Racing Series at Daytona — but came close to scoring a second on Saturday afternoon at Talladega.

The Athenian Motorsports veteran led five laps in the closing stages of the race and seemingly had one of the most powerful engines in the field. Holding him back was a lack of track position and draft aid when it was needed the most and he ultimately was scored in eighth. Townley restarted outside of the top-10 on the green-white-checkered finish and was held up on the outside by Spencer Gallagher. Complicating matters is that no one seemed willing to draft with Townley, a complete turnaround from the first half of the event, something not lost on the 24-year-old.

“We had guys help us all day and then at the end of the race, guys just went and did their own thing,” Townley said. “That’s just how it goes at these places. You think you have people willing to stick to a plan and then it goes out the window.”

Townley thinks he may have been able to get a top-5 if not for the block but conceded that it was a part of pack racing at Talladega.

“You know what, we’ll take an eighth though,” Townley said. “We didn’t have the momentum we needed at the end but that’s okay.”

Suarez Shines in Restrictor Plate Debut

Daniel Suarez made his NASCAR Truck Series debut on Saturday afternoon at Talladega, with Win-Tron Racing, with the primary goal of gaining valuable restrictor plate experience prior to his full-time promotion to the XFINITY Series in 2015 with Joe Gibbs Racing.

In that regard, mission accomplished.

Suarez hovered around the top-10 all afternoon but ran out of fuel coming to the green flag on the final restart. He pulled onto the apron and the pick-up kicked-in enough to get him to the checkered flag where he finished 15th.

The late race dramatics aside, Suarez feels proud to have made it to have logged all the laps in his first start at the combustible Talladega Superspeedway.

“It looked like we were going to run out of fuel for a second,” Suarez said. “I don’t know exactly how but we got going and worked our way through the field on the bottom until someone broke their momentum and killed all of ours too.

“It was a solid run. We overcame all of our mistakes and learned a lot of things that we can take into our next restrictor plate race. I’m very pleased.”

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Trucks

John Wes Townley, Gray Gaulding Crash at Bristol

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — @JWTownley and @GrayGaulding initiated a multi-truck accident on Thursday morning in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, collecting Justin Boston (@JBossRacing) and @BrennanNewberry in the process.

Townley and Gaulding were racing side-by-side for position coming out of Turn 2 when the two drivers bounced off each other on the backstretch. Townley slightly bobbled underneath Gaulding to start the chain of events and the two simply met in the middle. While trying to correct his car, Townley bounced off of Newberry and put him into the wall. Simultaneously, Gaulding hit the outside wall and glanced left into Townley who just got off Newberry, sending the No. 05 into the inside retaining wall.

Justin Boston, making his Truck Series debut, had nowhere to go and plowed into Townley. Gaulding was able to continue but finished six laps down while Townley and Boston finished 29th and 30th behind the wall, unable to continue.

Gaulding blamed Townley for starting the ordeal.

“It’s just racing at Bristol, I guess,” Gaulding told Popular Speed after the race. “John Wes Townley is a complete idiot. I don’t know what the heck he’s doing. Basically, the only reason he is here is that he has his dad’s money so it doesn’t matter.”

Adding to Gaulding’s frustration is that he started fifth and believed that he was capable of at least a top-10 finish.

Truck Series: Race Results

“That’s what happens, I guess,” Gaulding said. “We started fifth and qualified well but we were just tight all day. It’s just frustrating when you get stuck back there in traffic and put yourself in a position to get wrecked by guys like him.”

Townley was disappointed in the finish but wasn’t interested in engaging in a war of words. He’s moved on to the rest of the weekend, which includes the Nationwide race on Friday and the ARCA Series event on Sunday at Madison.

“It was just typical hard racing at Bristol,” Townley said. “We got side-by-side and there was some contact behind and then we started wrecking. I’m looking forward to Friday in this Nationwide car though. I think we’ve made a lot of progress, especially for a relatively new team and you have to turn the page and start with a blank slate.”