John Wes Townley Makes Venturini Motorsports' Daytona Dreams a Reality
Venturini Motorsports (VMS) arrived in Daytona Beach last week with hopes of dominating Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 presented by MAVTV American Real, the 2013 season opener for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
What could have turned out to be a tumultuous day ended on an incredibly high note, with the team experiencing triumph at Daytona International Speedway for the first time.
John Wes Townley, driving the No. 15 Zaxby's Toyota for VMS, took the lead from eight-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart on Lap 73 of 80 and held that position to the finish, delivering a Daytona win for the first time to one of ARCA's longest-tenured and most successful teams.
In gleaming Florida sunshine, four VMS teams unloaded and prepared for the weekend’s first practice Thursday. It was no shock when Townley, Milka Duno, Justin Boston, and Darrell Wallace Jr. turned the fastest laps of the practice and closed out the session running atop the leader board.
Qualifying on Friday afternoon further proved the power and strength of the Venturini Motorsports organization. Townley, at 181.313 mph, edged teammate Milka Duno (No. 35 CanTV/Milka Way Toyota) and her 180.505-mph lap for the Menards Pole Award, giving VMS a front row sweep.
Making his ARCA and Daytona debut, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. qualified fourth in the No. 55 Toyota. Venturini’s fourth entry, Justin Boston, kicked off his first season with Venturini in the No. 25 ZLOOP™ Computer & Electronics Recycling Toyota, qualifying 13th.
The green flag fell over Daytona International Speedway and the 2013 season was under way. Duno’s No. 35 Toyota thundered past Townley and by the close of the first lap led the race. She maintained the lead early. Wallace, in the chaos of a close-proximity pack, got shuffled back a few positions on the start, while teammate Boston plowed forward, up to eighth.
On Lap 11, the first caution of the race fell as the No. 94 blew an engine. This tightened up the field and brought the leaders down pit road. Fuel-only stops followed and after a jumble coming out of the pits, Townley restarted fifth, Duno ninth, Boston 12th, and Wallace 17th. The race went green again on Lap 18.
Only one lap later, the high hopes of Venturini domination were somewhat weakened. Wallace found his No. 25 teammate of Justin Boston. With the No. 3 of Drew Charlson closing in, Wallace got into the back of the No. 25. Unfortunately, Wallace shot up into the outside retaining wall and Boston, along with six other drivers, were sent careening into the grass. Both drivers walked away unscathed from the incident, but their cars received damage. Wallace would finish 61 laps down, in 35th position. Boston and the No. 25 were able to return to the track with 30 laps to go, and salvage a 31st-place finish.
Still in contention, Duno and Townley took the green at the restart on Lap 27, and Duno started having a transmission issue. She headed toward pit road as Townley moved closer to the lead. As she navigated her way to the No. 35 pit, a competitor’s tire blew, bringing out the race’s second caution. Duno went behind the wall.
The leader of the first 11 laps, Duno’s car was suddenly stuck in third gear, a transmission issue that needed immediate attention. Without losing many laps, crew chief Kevin Caldwell and the team got the car fixed and back on track. Duno was able to race her way back, finishing a mere four laps down in 28th.
The strength of the team had been carried all week by the bright yellow Zaxby’s Toyota of Townley, first practice leader and pole winner. The No. 15 car was still running second, as the 80-lap race wound to a close. With seven laps to go, Townley passed the Gerhart's No. 5 car, an annual contender on Daytona's high banks. Townley weaved his No. 15 in and out of lapped traffic over the final laps to take the checkered at Daytona, holding off Kyle Larson, Ricky Ehrgott, and Frank Kimmel.
Townley, having started from the pole, was heading to Victory Lane with his first ARCA win. Additionally, Venturini Motorsports visited Daytona International Speedway’s famed Victory Lane for the first time in the team’s 31-year history. Despite being one of the strongest teams in the ARCA Racing Series, VMS had never before won at Daytona International Speedway.
Townley, climbing from his car, was greeted by the boisterous roar of his team and a traditional big victory kiss from team owner Bill Venturini. When asked how the win felt, Townley said, “I’m ecstatic. There are no words.”
With a grin that stretched from ear to ear, he continued, “We had luck on our side, we stayed out of trouble, and it paid off.”
Townley will continue to drive a limited ARCA schedule with Venturini and will also drive for the team when VMS makes its NASCAR Nationwide Series debut later this season, on March 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
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