Athenian Motorsports announced yesterday that John Wes Townley was cleared to race this weekend at Pocono Raceway. The NASCAR Camping World Truck and ARCA Racing Series driver has been sidelined since the Drivin' For Lineman 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis, Mo.
The No. 5 Chevrolet driver sat out the last couple of races at Kentucky and Eldora with concussion-like symptoms. "The first impact was at Gateway," Townley explained on Sirius XM NASCAR's 'The Morning Drive'. "Spencer (Gallagher) got into me and I spun around and got in the fence. It wasn't too bad but it was enough to ring my bell a little bit. The second impact, after I came in and got tires, there was some unforeseen damage to the brake."
Townley's brake problem got worse after the ensuing restart. "When I restarted, Spencer was in front of me," Townley said. "I went down to turn one and my brake pedal went to the floor. That's when the second impact happened. After that, I saw some stars and it kind of dazed me so I think that's what did the damage."
It was a few days before the symptoms showed up and Townley was scheduled to race in the Xfinity series at Daytona. "I didn't really think much of it to start out with but after a few days, the symptoms hadn't really subsided," he said. "I decided to just hang out and not race in the Xfinity race."
Not seeing any improvements, Townley enlisted the help of the NASCAR medical community. "That's when I got evaluated and kind of found out what was going on," he said. "There was a little bit of dizziness, not a lot but it wasn't normal for me. Also just feeling like I was in a daze and not 100% with it. I went to the doctor where I was at the time and they recommended based on my symptoms that I go get some scans done. Nothing showed up on the scans that was alarming but they did some cognitive tests and they were a little off."
Townley went through the ImPACT test, a cognitive performance test that checks reaction time as well as memory. "I went and took the test and things were off, not a lot but a very minuscule amount." Townley explained. "When you are dealing with the brain, and it hasn't healed completely, and you go and take another shot (on the track), it can really do some damage and cause a driver to be out of the seat for the rest of the year."
In the past, drivers haven't always admitted that they are having medical issues for fear of having to step away from the job. "The worse thing you can tell a race car driver is 'you can't go out there and race this week," Townley pointed out. "It's really disheartening. To be able to get back out there and recover means more than going out and making it worse. The best thing we (drivers) can do is be very vocal and honest about the symptoms we're experiencing. The secondary impact is what gets a lot of people."
After getting the 'OK' to compete again during a doctor visit yesterday, Townley is looking forward to the weekend at the 'tricky triangle'. "It's going to be a great feeling," he said about returning to the track.