Former NASCAR driver shot dead had hatchet during dispute with estranged wife, other man, police say

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Former NASCAR driver John Wes Townley was wielding a hatchet during a dispute at a Georgia home occupied by his estranged wife and another man when he was fatally shot over the weekend, authorities said Monday.

The altercation began shortly after the 31-year-old Townley arrived at the residence in Athens, Ga., around 8:45 p.m. on Saturday, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department said.

FORMER NASCAR DRIVER JOHN WES TOWNLEY KILLED IN GEORGIA SHOOTING

Townley brandished the hatchet at some point during the fight before 32-year-old Zachary Anderson, of Dunwoody, Ga., fired several shots from his firearm. The bullets struck both Townley and Townley’s estranged wife, 30-year-old Laura Townley.

John Wes Townley stands on pit road before a NASCAR Nationwide series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 2014. 

John Wes Townley stands on pit road before a NASCAR Nationwide series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 2014. 
(AP)

Townley was fatally wounded. Laura Townley suffered serious injuries but was expected to survive.

Investigators were trying to determine whether the Townleys remained married, but they clearly were estranged, said Lt. Shaun Barnett, a police spokesman. The relationship between Laura Townley and Anderson also wasn’t clear.

No charges were filed immediately in the shooting, and an investigation was ongoing. Police are trying to determine whether Townley showed up with the hatchet or got it at the home, Barnett said.

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Townley raced eight seasons, making 186 starts across the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series, NASCAR’s lower two national divisions. His victory in the Truck Series at Las Vegas six years ago was the only national series win of his career.

Townley drove a car owned by his father Tony Townley, who helped found the vehicle’s primary sponsor, the Zaxby’s restaurant chain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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