Before Saturday night, John Wes Townley was known for the #JWT Twitter hashtag used whenever the 25 year old crashed or experienced some other misfortune in his first 86 starts in the Camping World Truck Series.
After his 87th Truck race and the misfortune of others, John Wes Townley is known as a winner.
With five laps remaining in the Rhino Linings 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Townley was in second as he watched two-time defending champion Matt Crafton, who had led a race high 69 laps, pit for fuel. Then Cameron Hayley dropped to apron. Then points leader Erik Jones began shaking his truck looking for gas.
Then only Townley remained.
“That was the hardest five laps of my life,” Townley said later. Much harder than the five total laps Townley had ever led in the Truck series prior to Saturday night. Those came last year at Talladega.
Townley finished with 23 laps led and a win for Athenian Motorsports, which had announced this week it would focusing on Townley’s Truck entry and would consider Xfinity Series entries on a race-by-race basis.
Townley, who qualified second for the second front-row start of his career, said he would have run out of gas without the efforts of his spotter, Terry Cook. But he recognized early Saturday he had a Truck that was capable of winning a race.
“Honestly, within the first five laps, that…was one of the only times this year I had that much security on the outside, just being able to hang with (the leaders),” Townley told NBCSN. “We just stayed up there all day. I took care of this thing and it took care of me.
HOW TOWNLEY WON THE RACE: While Matt Crafton, Erik Jones and others ran out of gas in the final five laps, Townley successfully managed his fuel strategy in order to take the checkered flag while on fumes, just like John Hunter Nemechek a few weeks ago at Chicagoland.
WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Matt Crafton led the most laps, 69, but was forced to pit with five laps to go when a fuel gamble failed to pay off. Crafton wound up eighth … Johnny Sauter hit the outside wall on Lap 48 after John Hunter Nemechek got loose and slid into Sauter, who was running on his outside. But Sauter eventually led 13 laps before finishing 12th, one-lap down … Ben Kennedy took advantage of other’s fuel misfortune to secure his third top-three finish of the season.
WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Brad Keselowski Racing. The two trucks, driven by Tyler Reddick and Austin Theriault, crashed into each other on Lap 14. Theriault’s No. 29 truck hit head-on into a portion of the outside wall on the frontstretch that isn’t protected by SAFER barrier. Theriault exited the vehicle but sat on the ground for awhile before being placed on a backboard and put in an ambulance. Theriault was then airlifted to a local hospital. Reddick finished seventh after leading two laps.
LINE OF THE NIGHT: “I just feel great for John, he’s had a tough career at times. He’s got some talent, we’re just digging in and giving it for him.” – Michael Shelton, crew chief for John Wes Townley
WHAT’S NEXT: Fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 25 at 1 pm ET on Fox Sports 1.