John Wes Townley will return to the Camping World Truck Series this weekend at Pocono Raceway and said on Wednesday morning he’s feeling “a whole lot better.”
Townley joined “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and revealed he believes the concussion-like symptoms that resulted in him missing the last two races stemmed from his two crashes at Gateway Motorsports Park on June 25. The first incident involved contact with Spencer Gallagher, who sent Townley spinning into the Turn 2 wall with a driver’s-side impact.
“It wasn’t too bad, but it was enough to ring my bell a little bit,” Townley said.
Just a few laps later, he would wreck again after he got into Gallagher going into Turn 1. The contact wasn’t retaliatory as Townley said his brakes were damaged from the first wreck. He said he got into Gallagher after his brake pedal went to the floor entering the turn.
“After that, I saw lots of stars, and it kind of dazed me, so I think that’s what did the damage,” said Townley, who engaged in an on-track scuffle with Gallagher after the incident. “I didn’t really think much of it to start out with, but after a few days, the symptoms hadn’t really subsided, so I decided in light of things to just hang out and not race the Daytona Xfinity race (on July 1).
“But even after a week had passed, the symptoms were still there, so that’s kind of when I decided to go and follow up with the NASCAR medical community and do whatever they recommended, and that’s when I got evaluated and figured out what was going on.”
After Daytona, Townley missed the truck races at Kentucky and Eldora Speedway, as well as ARCA Racing Series events at Iowa Speedway and Lucas Oil Raceway.
Townley has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and said that condition initially led him to dismiss his symptoms. He eventually realized the symptoms — including dizziness and never feeling as if he were 100 percent — were more than what he had considered normal.
In the aftermath of Gateway, Townley admitted he was not completely honest about how he was feeling.
“When I got out of the truck at Gateway and got to the med center, I had all kinds of things going through my head because I knew (in 2014) when I had the symptoms it was two or three weeks that I was pulled out,” Townley said. “I remember the long process of getting reintegrated and back and approved. Those thoughts were definitely crossing my mind, so I’ll be the first to say I wasn’t completely honest. I didn’t tell them about seeing stars or being dazed.
“But I did take it upon myself that within the next few days if I’m not feeling better, I’m definitely not going to race Daytona, which I didn’t, and the symptoms lasted longer than I expected. So I ended up going back and being completely honest. That’s the important thing I guess. Coming back and being honest and not going out there and taking that chance. At the end of the day, I think it’s worth it because you can go out there and keep going.”
Townley praised NASCAR for the cautionary procedures in place, believing it helps prevents unchecked symptoms from worsening. However, the driver must be honest about their symptoms and willing to get help — even if it means sitting out.
Part of the process with NASCAR was taking cognitive performance tests through a computer-modulated program, which tests a driver’s reaction time and memory. The results are compared to the driver’s baseline test that they are required to take before each season.
He took his last test on Tuesday and was cleared to return to action.
“I went through that process, and things were a little off, not a lot, just a very minuscule amount,” Townley said of his recovery. “But when you’re dealing with the brain, it really doesn’t take much, and if it hadn’t healed completely and you go out there and get another shot the next week, it can really do some damage and could potentially cause a driver to be out of the seat for the rest of the year, which would be very unfortunate. So you don’t really want to take any chances.”
His team confirmed Wednesday evening that Townley will be eligible for the Chase despite missing two races. NASCAR informed the team Wednesday of the waiver.