John Wes Townley, Former NASCAR Driver and Son of Zaxby’s Co-Founder, Killed in Georgia Shooting

by John Jamison

On Saturday, John Wes Townley, a former NASCAR driver, and son of a Zaxby’s co-founder, was shot and killed in Athens, Georgia’s Five Points area.

Lt. Shaun Barnett, a spokesman for the Athens-Clarke County Police, said they responded to the incident around 9 p.m. on Saturday night. The shooting occurred in the 200 block of Morton Avenue. The 31-year-old Townley died at the hospital. A 30-year-old female was also brought to the hospital with gunshot wounds and is currently in serious condition, per the Athens Banner-Herald.

Police currently suspect a 32-year old man from Dunwoody, GA of the crime. They have made contact with him. However, there are officially no charges against him at the time of this writing. According to the Athens-Clarke County Police, the crime seems to have been connected to some sort of domestic violence.

John Wes Townley is the son of Tony Townley, a co-founder of Zaxby’s and the owner of Athenian Motorsports.

John Wes Townley’s NASCAR Career

Townley, a Watkinsville, Georgia native, started his racing career in Bandolero competition in 2000. According to Access WDUN, the teenager built his way up to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. In 2008, he finally made the leap to the ARCA and Camping World Truck Series.

Townley left NASCAR behind in 2017 when Athenian Motorsports closed its doors. He earned one victory over the course of his career in the Camping World Truck Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2015. Townley beat out Matt Crafton to win the Rhino Linings 350 in dramatic fashion.

He had five top-five finishes to his name.

Townley talked to USA Today about the prospect of winning a championship in his NASCAR career. He was asked if he would give up his favorite hobby for a guaranteed championship title.

“I know that as I get older, racers don’t race forever. They retire around 45 or 50. And playing the piano or playing the guitar is something you can do up until you’re like 80 years old or something like that. You can do it to relieve stress and make you forget about life. So I wouldn’t give that up,” said Townley.

One of John Wes Townley’s more notable NASCAR moments came in 2016 at Gateway International Speedway. He had a crash with Spencer Gallagher, and it didn’t take long for the two to come to blows.

Townley’s fight with Gallagher doesn’t come as much of a surprise, though, considering that 2015 interview with USA Today.

“If it’s accidental and I legitimately am sorry about it, I’ll apologize. But if it’s a situation where there’s already like a grudge going on, I can be bad about fighting fire with fire and making the situation worse at times,” said Townley.