Former NASCAR driver John Wes Townley shot and killed

Former NASCAR driver John Wes Townley was shot and killed Saturday in Athens. He was 31.

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Townley and a 30-year-old woman were shot just before 9 p.m. Townley died after he was transported to a local hospital while the woman's injuries are described by police as "serious."

Athens-Clarke County police are suspecting the shooting had to do with a domestic violence issue of some sort. From the Banner-Herald:

The suspect, a 32-year-old Dunwoody man, was known to the victim and currently there are no charges against him, Barnett said. Police have had contact with the shooter.

The investigation is ongoing, and according to preliminary information, appears related to domestic violence, according to Barnett.

Townley raced in the Truck Series and Xfinity Series from 2008-16. He made 76 Xfinity Series starts and 110 Truck Series starts. He won the 2015 Truck Series race at Las Vegas in what was his only national series NASCAR win.

June 18, 2016: Driver John Wes Townley signs autographs during the 8th Annual Speediatrics 200- NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Iowa Speedway, Newton, IA.
John Wes Townley raced in NASCAR from 2008-16. (Getty Images)

Townley was one of the first young drivers in the late 2000s who advanced to the top levels of NASCAR powered by family funding. Townley’s father is the co-founder of Zaxby’s restaurants and the chicken chain sponsored him through the entirety of his career. That funding got Townley a full-season Xfinity Series ride at the age of 19 and he failed to finish seven of his 26 starts due to crashes.

Townley and the Zaxby’s sponsorship moved to Richard Childress Racing in 2010 but he ran just five races for the team before he was replaced behind the wheel.

That moment could have marked the end of a brief NASCAR tenure for Townley. But he kept racing part-time in the Xfinity Series and started running full-time in the Truck Series in 2012.

His best points finish in the Truck Series came in 2015 when he was eighth. He had eight top-10 finishes in 23 starts that season in addition to that win. He moved on from driving in NASCAR after running in 18 Truck Series races and two Xfinity Series races in 2016.