With lots of talk last NASCAR season about Jennifer Jo Cobb; the question coming into 2012 is not whether she’ll run, but how well? Two of my offerings from last season included talk of her (Wear and Tear, Kentucky-Fried NASCAR), and they received quite a bit of viewing. With her presence on the NASCAR circuit over the last eight years with some measures of success, as well as all she does OFF the track to promote the sport, is Jennifer Jo Cobb the REAL sweetheart of NASCAR?
The daughter of a race car driver, Joe Cobb, she’s been watching racing since she was three years old. Debuting in 2004 on the NASCAR circuit after racing at much lower levels since 1991, this now 38 year-old Kansas City native made her mark in 2010 by finishing 17th overall in competition for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), and became the highest-finishing female in any of NASCAR’s top three series. She also finished sixth in last February’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 at the Daytona International Speedway (DIS), and became the highest-finishing female in the NCWTS. But that was just the beginning of her notoriety last season.
Many fledgling racing teams do not have the financial resources to run full races, especially since the bill for tires alone during a race can run over ten thousand dollars. In order to make their way through a race season, teams will qualify and take the green flag at the start of a race, then bring the machine to the garage after a few laps, thus finishing toward the tail end of the field, but still earning the prize money for that finishing position.
Called “Start and Park,” it’s not a way of racing that many drivers enjoy. Most drivers come to the track and race. And when a driver is told to “Start and Park” yet not expecting (or on contract) to, it causes conflict.
That’s exactly what happened in March 2011, when Jen was told to “Start and Park” at the Bristol Motor Speedway only moments before engines were to fire. Team owner Rick Russell wanted to save the car for the following week’s race in California, and apparently Cobb wouldn’t be driving that next week, in violation of her five-race contract with Russell’s 2nd Chance Racing Team. She had had enough. Expecting to actually have run the race at Bristol (and to have run the following week in California), she was a bit annoyed. So much so, that she quit her driving for 2nd Chance Racing (AllLeftTurns.com). Lots of finger-pointing between Jen and her now former-team, to include the specter of lawsuits, but in the end, the decision to leave was the right one for her.
Her choice to walk was important on a number of levels for Jen as she said she ”made decisions accordingly for my career.” Based on that five-race run for 2nd Chance, she had elected to go for NNS points rather than NCWTS (drivers may only contend for one title’s points during a season). This decision would make her ineligible for NCWTS points, even though she planned on running more Truck races.
Jen reflected that walking away at Bristol “effectively ruined the rest of the 2011 season” for her, but with every cloud comes a silver lining: she gained a lot of respect, sponsors, and fans in the process (Jabulani Leffall, KCUR). Support for Jen and getting the driver into other races last season came from fans by way of www.TenForJen.com. Cobb’s sponsors at Race4Girls.com and DriverBoutique.com, among others also came out in support of her racing.
Cobb already owns her own racing team, and will be running the full NCWTS schedule in the #10 machine, driving a combination of Dodge Rams and Ford F-150s, with crew chief Steve Kuykendall aboard the War Wagon making the calls (Jayski.com). She may also be driving the #13 Ford for her own Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing team for the Nationwide Series, but those plans are not yet set for even a limited schedule. For a list of her appearances and races she’ll run, check out her website (www.Cobbracingteam.com).
Besides driving and running her own racing team, Cobb also works to help get women more active and noticed in the motorsports realm. She spends a lot of time spreading the word within both the racing and media circuits, and promoting an organization that endeavors to get women noticed in racing, www.Race4Girls.com. This site has multiple sponsors who contribute funding to female drivers, including Cobb, who are trying to get their “big break” into racing. Click here to see a list of the women that they are helping.
Cobb has made a name for herself within NASCAR circles, but has truly yet to find her way to Victory Lane. But should she remain winless, don’t expect her to be silent. As her notoriety grows and success builds, so do her efforts in helping women find their niche on the track.
Look for Jen to make a lot more noise during the 2012 NASCAR season. She is worth the mention, and is truly the unsung hero among women who have paid their dues on the grid. If you want to follow Jen on Twitter, look her up @JenJoCobb. You can always be one of her “Tweetpeas,” as she calls them.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@Speedglutton) for race updates, information, and my occasional rant.
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