By Joe Dunn
While all the media frenzy for NASCAR’s first three races was about Danica, another female racer was in the background working on a serious job of making NASCAR her Career. Jennifer Jo Cobb, at 36 years old has been involved in racing for 19 years, and was at Daytona for both the ARCA race and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, where she is in the running for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year.
Starting out at Lakeside and I-70 Speedway’s in the Kansas City area in 1991 Jennifer began in the NASCAR Grass Roots Beginner program in 4 cylinders. Through the years she worked her way up through the divisions where she ran the Late Model Series full time. When the Kansas Speedway opened in 2001 with a NASCAR Winston West event and an ARCA race that first weekend, Cobb was there watching. When the ARCA series returned in 2002, Jennifer found herself behind the wheel of the Roberts- Albright No. O Pontiac where she started 22nd and finished 16th. It was during that race that she decided that racing a national series was in her future.
In 2004, she managed to land an ARCA ride in a three race deal with Nick-N-Willy’s Take and Bake Pizza in the No. 19 Keith Murt Chevrolet. She turned that 3 race deal into three top 10 finishes, 9th at Kansas Speedway, her best to date a 7th at Nashville Superspeedway and a 10th at Chicagoland Speedway. Jennifer finished the 2004 season with her first start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway where a lap 2 crash ended her day.
In addition to her racing duties, Jennifer Jo has worked for the past 6 years with the Richard Petty Driving Experience, doing ‘Ride Along’ programs as well as instructing driver programs. She also works locally in the Kansas city area doing public speaking engagements as well as marketing efforts. In 2006 she formed Driverboutique.com , a woman’s racing apparel company as a partial funding source for her racing program. Later that was expanded with the development of Drivenmale.com , ‘Driven apparel for those who bleed speed’ which is the male counterpart to Driverboutique.com.
By the end of 2009, with a total of 15 national series races in ARCA, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, the decision to go full time in 2010 was made. With her financial backing in place, she purchased the No. 10 truck from Circle Bar Racing which ran the truck with driver James Buescher in 2009. The existing team, which finished 17th in owners points for 2009 has given Cobb a cushion by being ‘locked in’ for the first few races of the 2010 season.
After a disastrous lap one crash at Daytona, in the Nextera Energy Resources 250 resulted in a 34th place finish the team headed to Atlanta looking for improvement. The first year operation got behind the 8 ball during opening inspections and failed to ready the truck in time for the first practice session. Cobb spent the second session getting herself accustomed to the fast track that was new to her.
Being her first visit to NASCAR’s fastest track (Atlanta) Cobb didn’t hesitate to seek the advice of veteran drivers before she took to the track. “ I got a lot of advice” she told me, “and honestly virtually every driver told me that this track was the scariest one for them. Those pointers did tend to intimidate me before I went out, and missing that first practice session made it even worse.“ After the second practice Cobb was more relaxed, “ I went out being a bit worried, but as the laps went by, I found myself more and more comfortable. But the run ended before I was able to run out full speed.“ She smiled at this writer and then said, “ This track is like a cute cuddly Pit Bull, it is warm and fuzzy and comfortable, but you know in the back of your mind that it can change and bite you at any moment.“ Once the starting grid for the race was set Cobb approached the E-Z-GO 200 with the idea of running safe and finishing the race. Unlike Daytona, this time she accomplished that goal with a 21st place finish.
The No. 10 truck was picked by NASCAR as the ‘random’ truck after the race and taken to NASCAR R&D for chassis inspection with three other trucks. The series left Atlanta with a three week hiatus before returning at Martinsville Speedway on March 27th. Cobb returned to Charlotte with the team as they prepare another truck for that race. She expressed her concern that the team needed to be better prepared for the next race.
Jennifer is determined to work on her performances for the remainder of the season and is intent on actively challenging for the ROTY title. She acknowledges that she is behind the pack after two races, but is optimistic about the remaining 23 races. Working on 2010 in the NASCAR Camping World truck Series while looking ahead to the future keeps Cobb very busy. In addition to the Trucks, Jennifer is negotiating the purchase of a NASCAR Nationwide Series car to compete in 4 or 5 NNS events for 2010. She is anxious to begin that run at Nashville Superspeedway, the site of her best finish to date, a 7th in the ARCA series. It’s unknown if the car will be ready for the April 3rd race or if that will have to wait for June.
Cobb is not shy about her wishes and her expectations, so a full run in the NNS for 2011 is not out of the question. Her long range goals include entering the NASCAR Sprint Cup series sometime within the next two to three years. This girl is the real deal, and although she is not a GoDaddy girl, she does have the looks and that feminine side of her, right down to her superstition of having to wear animal print undies on race day. Is that really the feminine side or is it really the little kid side of her? What ever the answer to that question is, Cobb is determined to make a career as a NASCAR driver. Many woman have attempted to make that break into the ‘Men’s Club’ of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, but she has a plan to break that barrier and eventually become a full time competitor in NASCAR’s top series.