Homestead: John Wes Townley race report

TOWNLEY CAPS OFF ROOKIE SEASON WITH A TOP-25 FINISH AT HOMESTEAD Homestead, FL (11-21-09) -- John Wes Townley and the No. 09 Zaxby's Racing team capped off the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series season with a 24th-place finish in Saturday's Ford...

TOWNLEY CAPS OFF ROOKIE SEASON WITH A TOP-25 FINISH AT HOMESTEAD

Homestead, FL (11-21-09) -- John Wes Townley and the No. 09 Zaxby's Racing team capped off the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series season with a 24th-place finish in Saturday's Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

This was Townley's career first start at HMS and the solid performance was the 19-year-old rookie's third consecutive top-25 finish.

Townley was the 48th of 52 drivers to make a qualifying attempt Saturday morning. The Zaxby's Ford lapped the 1.5-mile south Florida track in 32.798 seconds (164.644 mph), posting the 25th best time of the session and locking the Raybestos Rookie into the field.

Rolling off the starting grid on the inside of row 13, Townley raced competitively inside the top-25 for the opening 80 laps. When the fourth caution flag was waved for debris on lap 81, Townley brought his No. 09 machine down pit road for four Goodyear tires, Sunoco fuel and a chassis adjustment. Townley would exit the pits in the 24th position but would be summoned back down pit road one lap later for a missing lug nut on the left rear tire. When racing resumed on lap 84 Townley was scored in the 33rd position.

Catching up was the name of the game over the next 75 laps. Running 29th, a long green-flag run would came into play for the Zaxby's Racing crew as they held off bringing the No. 09 machine down pit road with the leaders on lap 145 for green-flag pit stops. When the field cycled through, Townley was sitting in the 25th position, one of the only cars on the track that had not come down pit road for fuel.

However, with laps winding down and fuel running low Townley was about to bring his yellow and blue machine down pit road for the evening's final stop when the sixth caution flag was displayed for an incident in turn-4. This welcoming opportunity for relief allowed the Zaxby's team to gain back one of their two laps they had lost early on in the event.

Following a phenomenal stop for four tires and fuel the No. 09 pit crew would gain Townley one position on the race track. When racing resumed on lap 162 the Zaxby's Ford would be scored in the 24th position only one lap down.

Over the next 38 circuits Townley would battle other cars on his lap for a coveted top-25 position. It wasn't until the closing five laps that Townley leaped up one more spot to bring home a 24th-place finish in the 35th and final race of the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series season. Kyle Busch would go on to win the Ford 300 and the championship.

This was the final race for John Wes Townley behind the wheel of the No. 09 Zaxby's Ford Fusion for RAB Racing. In his first full-time season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Townley amassed six top-20 and 12 top-25 finishes and on the strength of the 19-year-old rookie's efforts he finished 23rd in the overall driver point standings and seventh in the Raybestos Rookie of the year battle. Townley will move to Richard Childress Racing for the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series season.

-credit: rabr

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