One Race At A Time
I recently had the opportunity to speak with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver/owner Jennifer Jo Cobb via Skype. I was extremely excited about this interview as its been a while since I’d actually spoken to a driver in a NASCAR series. I was told by many of her fans that she was an awesome person and that I would really enjoy speaking with her.
I wasn’t at all disappointed. Jen was very friendly and open to my questions. She didn’t hold back. I think you will enjoy both her sense of humor and her honesty. I’m going to give you most all of the interview. It lasted just about 20 minutes and we spoke the entire time.
Jennifer was born in Kansas City, Kan., on June 12, 1973. In 1991, she began racing in the 4-cylinder Pony Stock Division at Lakeside and I-70 Speedways in the Kansas City area. She was racing in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series (NWRS). Cobb has several victories, with finishes in the top-10 championship standings for every season she competed in NWRS. This include divisions such the Late Model and the Sportsman Late Model Division I-70 Speedway, with NWRS.
Jen pictured here with her father, Joe Cobb
Photo credited to Debbie Ross
Photo credited to Debbie Ross
Jennifer’s love of auto racing began with her father, Joe Cobb’s, racing career. With hundreds of victories and awards, including a track championship and MPD award, Joe continues to compete in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Premier Modified division at the 1⁄2 mile dirt oval in Kansas.
In 2002, Jennifer attended and graduated from Fast Track High Performance Racing School. She met ARCA RE/MAX Series driver guidelines, reaching speeds over 150 mph at Lowes Motor Speedway. In June 2002, she went on to debut in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, finishing 16th at the Kansas Speedway. In 2003, Jennifer became a driving instructor and ride driver for Richard Petty Driving Experience. Working at speedways from Chicagoland to California and logging in well more than 10,000 laps, giving her additional time and valuable experience behind the wheel. Jennifer continues to improve her driving techniques and skills by testing at tracks and working at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where she logs more than 1,000 laps per weekend at many NASCAR-sanctioned racetracks.
In 2004, Cobb was invited to compete in the Busch Series finale at Homestead-Miami. Driving the #50 for Keith Coleman Racing, she finished 43rd due to a crash on lap 2. 2004 netted her three consecutive top-10 finishes in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. Jennifer has proven herself to be a tough competitor working aggressively through the ranks in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series, ARCA RE/MAX Series and NASCAR Busch Series. She is now owner and driver in the NCWTS of the #10 as well as the owner of the #13 in the NNS.
Education and Career
Jennifer has 20 years of marketing and advertising experience. She holds an associate degree in pre-journalism and is currently working on her broadcasting degree. She was co-host of a televison program on Time Warner Cable’s Metro Sports TV Channel called "Inside Motorsports," now in her fourth season. She has appeared on the cover of the national racing magazine Stock Car Spectacular and has been featured on local and national radio programs as well numerous newspapers and websites.
The following is a YouTube Video of Jennifer speaking for Five Star at one of her speaking engagements. This series is available on YouTube to view. I’ve included Part 1 on teamwork. Jennifer is a nationally registered speaker with Five Star Speakers with approximately 50 speaking engagements scheduled per year.
With careers in racing, broadcasting, journalism and professional speaking, Jennifer lives her life in the public eye. Jennifer’s hopes for the future include competing full-time schedules in the NCWTS, the NNS and then of course, the NSCS. But she hasn’t tied herself down with a timeline. Her goals for the future are big, and her goals for each race are simple.
Cobb created her own line of clothing for the race fan. Driver Boutique allows her to fund her racing efforts as she attempts to qualify for various races with the Driver Boutique sponsorship. Click here to visit Driver Boutique Website
Without further ado, here is the question and answer session I had with Jennifer in its entirety. I hope you all enjoy getting to know her better. It is my intention to turn you into a Jennifer Jo Cobb Fan, if you aren’t already!
What involvement did your family have in your racing career as a young girl?
“Well I had no racing career growing up. I just had this little sparkle in my eye telling everyone I wanted to be a racecar driver, and nobody believed me. They brushed me aside. My dad started racing when I was 3 and I used to fall asleep in my dad’s racing seats. It was hard to get me out of the garage. When I tried to tell people I wanted to race, nobody took me seriously. I had this dream. Even up to my first race car, nobody believed it or even thought I would do it. So my very first racecar was outside of my family. But it didn’t take long for my dad to take me under his wing when he saw that I was serious about it.”
So how old were you when you actually started racing?
Was there anyone else out there besides your father racing that inspired you?
“No not at all. Because when your family races every week, Friday night and Saturday night, and I was a pretty active kid involved in dance and gymnastics. I did it competitively. So when your family is busy racing, you're not so much a fan of the big leagues because you're busy working on your racecars and going to races. So that's what I was involved in. The TV access wasn’t like it is today. So my dad was like my one and only hero.”
When I’m watching you as of late, I see you as a safe driver, especially when you’re qualifying. Does that have anything to do because you’ve become an owner this year?
“Ya, you know, I used to not be. I used to have to really fight hard to qualify into every race. There is this video on YouTube of an interview where Michael Waltrip comments about that.” See the video below:
Jennifer went on to say,
“I’m not afraid to do what needs to be done. But this year definitely we can’t even go into qualifying trim a lot of times because we don’ t have the tires to do so. When I go out there, I’ve not practiced a qualifying run on that set of tires to know how the truck is gonna react, I do have to take it easy. Yes, so it definitely plays a part and our mission is no longer qualifying into the race; our mission is race as best we can and finish and make it through the season. Protect our equipment so that next year we can have (it to use). The more money you have, the more chances you can take.”
Looking at your stats over the last three years, it's obvious you're definitely serious about where you want to take your program……
“It's been so out of my hands in years past. This year I’ve got so much of a better opportunity to really grow and build a program. It's not like One and Done. Or I’m out there with a team every once in a while. We've improved results because we can actually start a program and build on it. I’m so looking forward to building an even stronger program with better results next year. But for right now what you can say is that we are consistent, we are finishing races, and if you really watch and even listen on the scanner, you can see that there are points when the truck is good, it goes through these phases, we get really really racey. So if can have some stuff on par for our competitors, we can provide some really good racing and even be in the top 10.”
“I have 2 NNS cars. I ran Daytona and crashed early on and that was with the Mustang. I also own a Fusion that I just ran at Kansas two weeks ago. So there are two NNS cars. The plan next year is to do the same thing we did this year, only better. We will run a full CWTS, with some NNS races. This season was all thrown together in January. So we were kind of behind right from the get-go. So going into next year we’ll be able to take what we’ve got, learn from it and improve on it. We’ve got all the people in place already. Last year at this time I had no clue if I was going to have any kind of a deal this year.”
Looking around, I don’t see or believe it's just women having issues getting sponsors: it's everyone. Do you think it's because of the economy or on your end, because you're a woman?
“No way, I’ve always said that from day one. It has nothing to do with the economy. It is tough to find sponsorship period. It always has been and probably always will be. It has absolutely nothing to do with being a woman. There are so many people out there that want to race that don’t have the talent to race. But you’ve got to have all the elements to be able to put a package together. It's not like the NFL, where you just go try out for a team. It's just not the reality of our sport. That’s part of what makes our sport so intriguing, in that business is so involved. You don’t see NFL players with sponsors on their uniforms or jerseys. But in NASCAR, the sponsors are just as much part of the sport. So a driver has to have talent, personality, you’ve got to have some sort of business sense to get the sponsors. Even drivers who act like they don’t care about he business side of it, they definitely care about it. Look at Tony Stewart, for example. He used to be like, “I don’t give a flip,” but now you see him and he’s a good, cooperate spokesperson. You’ve got to have every angle of that. I see so many people that don’t understand that. I think the biggest thing you’ve got to have is perseverance. It's not a female problem, it's not a male problem. It's a driver problem and we’re all equally up against that challenge. The ones that can persevere and overcome it will race.”
Is it your goal to be in Cup one day?
“Absolutely it is. It always has been.”
How far from that goal do you think you are?
“I don’t have aspirations of being full-time Cup anytime soon. Obviously it's a huge personal goal to race in the NSCS. But not just to compete in that series, to be competitive in it. First I would like to be more competitive in the NCWTS, and then more competitive in the NNS and so it's not really a time frame. I learned a long ago time frames are ridiculous. It's really not our timing. It's God’s timing. When the time is right, it’ll happen. An opportunity could come next week and if I were to get approval through NASCAR, we’d do it. I’m not looking for that. It's not even on my radar right now. But if we had a spectacular season next year, I could see making a Cup debut by the end of the year. If it doesn’t happen next year then I’ll look for a spectacular season in 2012, and try to make a Cup debut. There is really no set dates or big goal like that. The goal is just to continue to improve, and be stronger and stronger overall in the sport. When you work hard enough at the core goal, the science of racing, which is just to be better and better and better, then the results will come.”
Where or who do you see in the final Chase?
“I lost track of it after Kansas. I was so excited about it going into Kansas and watched the race from my sponsor’s suite. I have gotten so busy and lost track of what is going on on the Cup side. I want to be a student of the sport, but when it comes down to the personalities and things of that nature, I just don’t have time. I’m offered appearances that take me away. I’m so out of tune on what’s going on back in Charlotte. In terms of Cup drivers in the Chase, I don’t have any favorites, or predictions or anything like that. It's definitely a good opportunity to learn. Like when we saw Kyle Busch basically put himself in a position to be taken out and hurt his chances drastically by driving like he typically drives.”
|Jennifer and her ever present ipod - that is her way to prepare for the race.|
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
This is a good time for a question from someone we both know, @SummerDreyer. How do you respond when someone wrecks you intentionally?
Jennifer laughs. "It's only happened once this year with Kyle Busch, the Kyle Busch incident. You know it's like he did it the first time and I think my response was appropriate. I didn’t understand why, I was not holding him back. We hadn’t even taken a lap, and it didn’t make sense. But the world saw it. Everyone saw it, even his fans. So I honestly just kinda laughed it off. It didn’t hurt anything. But if he would have torn up one of my trucks, I might’ve had to go after some revenge. But I’ve given it a lot of thought. I’ve been asked by so many people if I was going to get him back. I know there is going to be a time and a place for that opportunity will be right. But just my setting out to do it would be irresponsible to do to my team and to the other truck teams. There is a little bit of satisfaction in seeing other people paying him back, but at the end of the day you have to focus on your program. People who drive like that will get theirs eventually. It's already happening. It is hard, especially when I interview and talk about Godly principals, and then I have to point out that I am human and a sinner, and will fail. I don’t want anyone throwing this into my face in the future. But for right now it just makes me happy to have had a three-week break, contemplating what to do about the situation at Martinsville and some of the stuff he said about me. It's like God can take care of people way better than you can. So just focus on your racing career and keep digging along.”
I was there in Fontana when Kyle’s engine went up in smoke. I was up in a sea of Kyle Busch haters. It was so overwhelming to hear the cheers from that area of the grandstands that I was in. It was amazing. There are a lot of Kyle Busch haters out there. But I think they love to hate him.
Jen: “Honestly I think if he would just quit wrecking people at the lower levels. That's what irritates the truckdrivers more than anything. Don’t come in here with all the money in the world, into a lower series and start your crap. Pick on people more your own size. But at the same time I think he is phenomenal for the sport. I would have mildly called myself a fan of his before the incident because I think he’s very entertaining. I get a kick to see the crowd react to him. It makes me chuckle every time. So being a victim of it all has made it fun.”
Below is a video introducing Jen’s Core Team
This and more can be seen on YouTube kcracegal
“What I am disappointed in that we don’t have a top 10 by now and that we’re not more consistently inside the top 15. That’s my disappointment of the year. So you know I give our overall results, pass or fail, it would be failing. We need to be doing better. That's the competitor in me. But as a team and as an organization, and as individuals on that team, everyone is doing well. The fact that we are so underfunded. By the end of the year I really want to get my finances down, and open the books and make public what we spent. I think people are gonna drop their jaws when they see what little we spent this year in comparison to other teams that are running inside the top 20 in points.
Has 2010 met your expectations?
Has 2010 met your expectations?
"I would love, and I don’t have this much power, I just wish that this would happen. I wish that it would change the sport in a way. Like, do we really need motorcoaches to go racing or private jets to go racing? If we didn’t have those things, maybe sponsorship dollars would come down and more companies would become involved in it. So it's like, I give us a huge A+ for making it through the year, being smart, being smart with our equipment, and having the heart and the guts to want to keep getting better. Why those results are eluding us, I don’t know. So we’re looking to finish out the last five races much stronger and at the very least go into 2011 with a clean slate. I want to have the same people and the same trucks but we really need to strip everything down. Find out where all the bugs are, and make sure we make the trucks faster. But gosh we are finishing with very reliable equipment, we’re doing a lot of things right, I just want better results at the end of the day.”
Video of Jen and James Buescher in a wreck in 2010 at O’Reilly 200
A second truck was recently added to the JJCRacing Team. The No. 24 debuted in Martinsville on Oct. 22.
So the crazy woman goes and jumps off the Stratosphere. What was that all about? Something you wanted to do for a long time or just a spur of the moment decision?
“Oh hell no! Shelley, the woman who does our hotel PR, came to me and said, 'The Stratosphere is going to sponsor us, and we’re gonna stay there, and you’ve got to jump off the building.' I’m like what?……she said, 'Will ya do it?' I said I’d do it for the team. The funny thing is she called me a few days before the race and said that some of the other guys had backed out, are you still gonna do it? For a moment there I thought 'What, I can back out?' (Laughing)…..But I made the commitment and I followed through with it.
Video credited to @Queers4gears
"I have to tell you, I was standing up on that ledge, and it was just a couple weeks after I had skydived with the ARMY’s Golden Knights Parachute Team. That was like overcoming, although I’ve never had a fear of skydiving or anything like that. But you know, you jump out of an airplane, you get a little fearful.
"So I am standing on top of the Stratosphere. I am just so mad at myself, I’m mad at Shelley, I'm like when I get to the bottom, she’s getting fired. I was just standing up there, about to jump off this building, just sick and hating it. I’m telling myself you’ve got to start saying no. You don’t have to do every little crazy daredevil stunt that comes along.You have to start saying NO.
"As soon as I jumped, I HAD SO MUCH FUN! I’m thinking ‘OH YA, I’d do this again in a heartbeat, and there’s no way I’m ever saying NO to another crazy daredevil thing.' This is just so fun. It was just so neat to overcome that huge fear. I’m not gonna lie. Right before I jumped out of the airplane, right before I jumped off the Stratosphere, I said to myself WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU DOING?
But it had to have been a release in some way. Everything else is so small when you start jumping off buildings like that.
“I’m not gonna lie, it makes me feel a little more like a BAD A$$. My mom was at the bottom (of the stratosphere). She’s a kind of a worry wart. She doesn’t vocalize it. She just sits there. But when I got down, she said, “I was gonna spank your butt if you would’ve chickened out. You had to jump.” People think I get my fearlessness from my dad, but perhaps it's from my mom.”
What do you do to relax?
“ I really like a lot of things. I really like to shop. I really like to take naps. I really like to work out. All of those things are great stress relievers. Especially the working out. There is something about the endorphins that come out when you work out and you can handle stress so much better.
“For example I had Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off this week. I woke up at my normal time and did my normal wakeup routine. Then I did some taxes, organizing, T-shirt orders, then I took a nap. I woke up and did more taxes, then some promotion work, then a conference call, then I took a nap. Then I woke up, worked until midnight. It was all about just having a nice relaxing day to do nothing. It's about getting organized and catching up and then surrendering when the nap comes on. I had three days where I worked way more than I slept but I had no schedule. No be here at this time, be there at that time. I was up building furniture at midnight because I wanted a bookshelf in my hallway.”
I want to thank Jennifer for opening up her life to me and to the readers and fans of Skirts and Scuffs. It has been great getting to know her and I sure hope you all have enjoyed her visions and opinions. She doesn’t hold back. It's all or nothing. That’s what I liked most about her.
Thanks to Debbie Ross for photos. Michael from @Queers4gears for the Stratosphere video. Some photos were taken directly from JJCR website with Jennifer’s permission. Please visit her site to learn more about this exciting woman in the motorsports industry.
Jennifer Jo Cobb – Facebook
Jennifer Jo Cobb - Twitter
Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing - Website
LOVIN' LIFE AND ALL IT HAS TO OFFER