MANSFIELD, Ohio (May 24, 2008) – John Wes Townley made his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut Saturday in the Ohio 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park. He had raced at Mansfield once before in another series, but learned quickly that the truck series races can get pretty rough on a short track. Despite a few bumps along the way, Townley raced every lap, gained valuable experience and brought the Zaxby’s Ford F-150 back in 27th place.
Townley qualified 23rd the previous afternoon and was optimistic for the race. The truck was tight off the corners early in the race and needed to rotate better through the center. The team’s pit strategy was to keep Townley on the track until they were in their fuel window and gain track position while others pitted.
The strategy worked as Townley was as high as ninth place by lap 54. By the fifth caution of the race crew chief Chad Norris called Townley to pit road for four tires, fuel, track bar and air pressure adjustments. He fell back to 30th place, but said the truck was handling much better with the adjustments.
As the race progressed, Townley fell in line behind his Roush Fenway teammate Erik Darnell and tried to learn from watching Darnell. He was back up to 15th by the halfway point of the race and said the truck was still turning pretty well.
As drivers continued to battle for position all day, Townley learned quickly that the racing can get pretty intense. Twice during the race he hit the outside wall at the start/finish line as competitors ran him up the track to gain track position. The Zaxby’s Ford F-150 was getting loose in the corners so when a caution for debris came on lap 188 Townley brought his truck to the pits for service. He took four new tires and dropped the track bar. While the team was trying to pull out the fenders, the pace truck put him a lap down in the pits.
Luckily Townley was awarded the lucky dog and given his lap back under caution on lap 206. He moved up to 30th with 40 laps to go and did his best to gain a few more positions and stay out of trouble. He accomplished that by finishing every lap resulting in a 27th-place finish. Rookie Donny Lia won his first career truck series race.
“We started out coming here pretty optimistic being my first race,” Townley said. “We got out here and got in some bad situations. Fortunately, we didn’t get in any big wrecks. We just got held up by a couple of trucks out there. It just really hurt us, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I got in a little racing incident with the 16 (Brian Scott). There’s always the next race. I gained quite a bit of experience today. That’s all you can take from races. You learn so many different things that you can’t really even pinpoint. You get there and you’re better next time.”
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns to action at Dover International Speedway on Friday, May 30. Travis Kvapil will return to driving the No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford F-150 in the AAA Insurance 200.