New Details Emerge in Death of Former NASCAR Driver John Wes Townley

by John Jamison
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Yesterday, the news of former NASCAR driver John Wes Townley’s death broke. He was involved in a shooting on Saturday night that left him dead and a female in critical condition. The Athens-Clarke County Police mentioned the possibility of domestic violence in their initial report. Now, it appears that John Wes Townley himself was the aggressor.

According to an Athens-Clarke County Police field case report shared by AP Sports’ Jenna Fryer on Twitter, the woman who suffered a gunshot to the abdomen was Laura Townley, John’s ex-wife. The shooting was indeed connected to a domestic disturbance.

The report identifies the shooter as a Dunwoody, GA man named Zachary Anderson. The police investigation showed that John Wes Townley came to 240 Morton Avenue in Athens armed with a hatchet. At the location were Laura Townley and Zachary Anderson.

Townley proceeded to attack them with the hatchet, and Anderson fired “several shots from his gun.” A round struck John Townley in the chest, and one accidentally struck Laura in the abdomen. John died of his wounds, and Laura was in critical condition. She is now stable, however, and will likely recover from her wounds.

The Daily Mail reports that John Townley and Laura filed for divorce in February 2021. She had been living at the Morton Avenue address since that time. According to Classic City News, an Athens-Clarke County coroner confirmed that John Wes Townley’s license matched the 240 Morton Avenue address. But he was reportedly living with his parents in Oconee County, Georgia.

Townley retired from NASCAR in 2016 after his team, Athenian Motorsports, closed up shop. His father, Tony Townley, a co-founder of the famed fried chicken chain Zaxby’s, owned the team.

The NASCAR World Weighed In on the Death of John Wes Townley

When Townley’s death was first reported on Sunday, the public details of the case were still unclear. And the 31-year-old former NASCAR driver’s death came as a shock to many around the racing world.

“Damn. Rest Easy JWT. Heartbreaking,” Bubba Wallace wrote.

Jeff Gluck, a racing writer for The Athletic, also offered some words when he first heard the news on Sunday.

“Just seeing this shocking and upsetting news. RIP John Wes Townley.,” he wrote in a tweet.

Of course, the case details had not yet been revealed when the two prominent NASCAR figures weighed in. A statement from Public Information Officer Lt. Shaun Barnett was the only thing folks had to go on until this morning.

“We are not ruling out that this was potentially a self-defense case related to a domestic violence type incident. However, the investigation is still ongoing,” Barnett said Sunday.

Indeed, the investigation remains ongoing at this time. We will keep you updated with any developments here at Outsider.

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