On Friday in Phoenix, the biggest buzz before the Nationwide Series race seemed to be about whether or not John Wes Townley had been fired from Richard Childress Racing. Following a practice crash that destroyed the team’s primary car, Townley was yanked from the seat and Clint Bowyer took over for the remainder of the day. Internet rumors swirled that Townley had gotten the boot, but Lee Spencer of FoxSports.com reported this afternoon that Townley is still at RCR, but his future will be decided on Tuesday. My only question about all of this, is what was RCR expecting?
Last season, Townley jumped from ARCA competition to the Nationwide Series with RAB Racing. Of the 32 races he attempted, he DNQ’d for six of them. In the 26 races he did run, Townley had 10 DNFs and only managed to complete 73% of the laps. He had an average start of 24.2 and an average finish of 27.6. Not exactly a stellar rookie campaign.
Entering the 2010 season, Townley and his family sponsor Zaxby’s decided to leave RAB and take their money to Richard Childress Racing. Through the first five races of this season, Townley has actually improved fairly markedly over his first year. He has an average start of 10.0, an average finish of 22.4, has completed 96% of the laps, and only has one DNF. While he is still tearing up equipment, progress has been made.
From the various reports online, it appears Townley will be out of the #21 through Texas, and may return at Talladega. But all of this still leaves me wondering what RCR thought they were getting in bringing Townley over.
The obvious answer in this situation is money. RCR’s Nationwide program lost sponsor Holiday Inn after the 2009 season, and Townley and the Zaxby’s money enabled RCR to keep the program going. The difficulty for RCR in this deal though, is the fact that Zaxby’s was partially founded by Townley’s family and his father still serves as the company’s CFO. Knowing this, there is no way that I see where the contract would allow John Wes to be replaced all together if the performance wasn’t there.
So now, apparently we’ve reached the point where RCR can’t stomach Townley destroying any more of their equipment (despite JWT’s improvement).
It will be interesting to watch this situation going forward, because I’m not sure the Townleys will continue footing the bill for a race team that John Wes isn’t apart of. Which really leaves RCR with only two options: let Zaxby’s and Townley walk; or continue dealing with a young driver who will probably never figure it out.
And therein lies the dilemma when a team makes the decision to bring in a funded driver. Is the money really worth it? The ball’s in your court RCR.