Driven to Win: Jennifer Jo Cobb, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Racer

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Driven to Win: Jennifer Jo Cobb, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Racer

She may not be a household name yet, having raced sporadically in the national stock car racing level for the past eight years.

After Speedweeks 2010 at Daytona, this tough competitor will probably become quite known with fans and media for her gritty, aggressive and calculative driving at the high banks of the world-famous 2.5 mile superspeedway.

Competing in the ARCA Re/Max Series, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and Nationwide Series, Jennifer Jo Cobb has fought hard to find the right opportunity to truly get her career into gear, so to speak.

It's taken some time, but there appears to be some light into Cobb's promising career with her race team purchasing the assets and equipment from the No. 10 Circle Bar Racing team, a one-time formidable force that may give the Kansas City native the true edge needed to compete for wins and top-fives and 10's.

Cobb is a very attractive young woman, born into racing virtually since birth and has all the makings of a successful driver just waiting for that moment. Beneath the surface, there's a racer who'll trade paint to get up to the front, doing whatever it takes to get up to the front of the pack before the conclusion of a race.

Personable and knowledgeable are some of the words to describe Cobb, who I had the opportunity to interview this week following her big announcement regarding the upcoming NASCAR season. As you'll see in this interview, she is determined, strong, and very kind, some of the admirable and true qualities of a racer.

She realized how hard the racing game is, learning along the way about the business aspect of the sport. However, you can tell that she truly wants to succeed, and is determined to make the most of her career as she has since her first race at age 18.

Now with the most prime opportunity in her hands, Cobb is ready to show everyone her prowess and skills at her zenith with all the right tools and people ready to support her along the way.

Rob Tiongson: First I saw you on the speed charts for ARCA testing at Daytona last month, driving the No. 21 Chevy for Bowsher Racing. Now you've really made some big news, perhaps a career maker here. Describe to me how it feels to know that you're going to be racing full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the No. 10 ride. 

Jennifer Jo Cobb:
Every year since 2002 I have yearned to have some kind of a deal going for the following season and especially getting to Daytona. Through perseverance and patience and a lot of false starts, 2010 may finally be my year. It is an incredible feeling. I'm mostly grateful and determined to be competing in two Speedweeks events (ARCA and NCWTS).

RT: With the 2010 season's start just a month away, what are some of the challenges you know that you and Mike Harmon, who'll help you run the team, will face? 

JJC:
Having a good bit of money to start the season, but knowing it's not quite enough to finish. My investors have allowed us to buy some really good equipment and trust our decisions.

We have to tread carefully with the spending at first so that we can ensure what few employees we can afford full-time that are able to take care of them. It is so important to remember how many lives are at stake when working with a big league team.

These men and women have families, hopes and dreams too so we must make good decisions not only for ourselves but for them too. Having enough money will be a major challenge so finding sponsorship is key. 

Another challenge is going to be having so many people think we have a lot of money and resources (I've received dozens of resumes already) and I hate to tell people no...but obviously I'm going to have to do that a lot.  I'm just praying for good decision-making capabilities.

RT: For many years, you were one of the independents out there competing in the ARCA, Nationwide, and Truck Series. Despite your struggles, what kept you inspired knowing one day, you'd have the chance to show the world that you're a real racer?

JJC: I still am very much an independent and that is exactly what kept me going.  I want to be an inspiration for the underdog because there are more underdogs in every facet of life out there than there are stars. That is why being a motivational speaker is such an important part of my path.

I feel like my story and my struggles have had a real purpose and I know the day will come that I will have a breakthrough. So many people are amazed that I keep going but they don't know that my attitude is to know that God has provided me a wonderful and happy life where I enjoy the journey and take each and every struggle and failed attempt and learn as much as I can from it.

RT: Some of the Bleacher Creatures may not know about you yet, which I'm sure will change this year. But for those who don't know about you, how did you first start off racing? Did you cut your teeth in asphalt or dirt tracks?

JJC:
My dad has raced dirt tracks in the Midwest since I was three (Joe Cobb). He is who taught me my perseverance. He is 63 years old and still racing competitively at Lakeside Speedway. 

I raced for 10+ years at NASCAR's grassroots level. I worked on my own racecars with my dad who taught me that to be a driver, you have to know your cars.  This is in my blood and despite my girly girl appearance and personality, I am really a tough, old-school racer. 

My dad, our loyal, volunteer crew, and I spent countless nights without sleep to get to the track each and every week.  No matter what, we rarely missed a race. For many years I raced two nights a week (Lakeside and I-70 Speedways). I started at the bottom, in the four-cylinder Pony Stock division and worked my way up to Late Models. 

We had dozens of wins, a points championship runner-up and finished in
the top ten in points every year I raced full-time locally. Not many people believed in me but that's ok. The right people did and here we are!

RT: You hail from Kansas City, Kan., which has become something of a racing city in recent years. Who were some of the racing heroes you looked up to when you were growing up?

JJC: No doubt, my dad. He won races with such little resources (often, the only tire on our trailer tire rack was the spare for the trailer) and he would beat those guys who rolled in with rows and rows of tires (you can do that on dirt!). My loyalty has always been to him.

RT: What are some of your favorite racing facilities that you've competed on in any racing division?

JJC:
I love the big leagues...Phoenix, Miami, Kansas, Chicagoland, Daytona, Talladega...I really can't choose but I love those big ol' wide open tracks! 

I can't wait to compete on the short tracks because I-70 was a 32 degree banked asphalt oval, so I know I can do well there too...but mainly, to be wide open down those straight aways for so long and hang it open going into the corner without slowing down is such a cool feeling!

RT:
Ideally, every racer, at the start of a season, sets out to have wins by year's end. What are your expectations and goals for the short term outlook of your team? And long-term?

JJC:
It's hard to set goals without knowing what we have. I raced in the back for so long in the big leagues that it feels surreal to finally, possibly have equipment to run up front. I want to be there and be competitive week in and week out. I do know that one win won't do. Once you win, you just become so hungry for that next win to back it up so if I'm looking for one, I'm looking for at least two. 

But I want to make sure I continue to learn to race well, aggressive and clean. Top tens, fives, threes, and then wins. Rookie of the Year would be a great bonus and to be top ten in points would be fantastic. 

It would be foolish to really give all that much thought though. I'm going to focus week in and week out on what we can do better to learn and improve every single race. If we truly do that, as a team, we will inevitably win.

RT:
I've asked this to upcoming female racers like Caitlin Shaw and Shannon McIntosh. There are some in the motorsports community who feel that racing is just a man's sport, which is clearly an archaic thought. How do you feel about that and what do you have to say to those who think that racing is just for guys (It certainly isn't.)?

JJC: I don't feel about that. Ignorance is everywhere and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. I have so many other things to focus on that the naysayers don't get any of my precious time. In life, we can choose to argue with those who don't agree with us or we can choose to focus on our goals and feed off of the positive. I'm going to be loved and I'm going to be hated and I have accepted that long ago.

RT:
What has to be your most proudest/biggest achievement as a racer who's competed since the age of 8? Any particular race that stands out to you?

JJC:
I've wanted to race since I was eight. I started when I was 18. My first win was incredible—Friday, May 13, 1994. I cried, my parents danced, and we really relished in that moment. My proudest moments are when people acknowledge my integrity and perseverance. Making my first Busch start in '04 by qualifying 28th out of 55 was huge, only to be followed up by an even bigger setback. Through it all, good and bad, I'm most proud of growing stronger, wiser and being exactly where I am right now.

RT:
Free association time, Jennifer! Tell me the first thing that immediately comes into you mind with the following:

Long green flag runs. 

JJC: I'm so thirsty!  Oh wait, don't think about that...focus...fast/smooth/fast/smooth (my chant in my head to keep me focused).

RT:
Short track action.

JJC:
OK, asshole...what was that all about!?!

RT:
Biggest pet peeve as a racer.

JJC: Opinionated people who have never stepped a foot in someone else's shoes before bashing them.

RT:
Adrenaline rush.

JJC: Heaven.

RT: Biggest fear.

JJC:
Failure.

RT: Recession.

JJC: Stop perpetuating it...work harder, be stronger...those are the ones who will thrive right now.

RT: Faith.

JJC:
...is everything.

RT: Inspiration.

JJC: ...is in perspective.  Think you've got it bad? Do some digging.

RT: Favorite band/song.

JJC: Counting Crows, Mr. Jones

RT:
Some I've interviewed have told me their racing initiation which made them feel a part of the motorsports community. What had to be your "Welcome to NASCAR moment?"

JJC: When Michael Waltrip was walking down pit road my first Busch race in Miami and said to me, "Nice lap." When Carl Edwards passed me down the front straightaway and waved his hand out the window at me to say, "Hey, thanks, keep digging," or whatever he was saying. When Chocolate Meyers interviewed me and told me he liked me because I was a racer.

Those are memorable but I must admit, I think my initiation into racing was the day I was born. The first race I attended was when I was two weeks old. It is just in me.

RT: Tell me about your fashion line called Racing Boutique. How did you start up your business venture and what does RB offer to any interested racing fans?

JJC: Driver Boutique (www.DriverBoutique.com) and Driven for Men (www.DrivenMale.com) offer general racing inspired merchandise not tied to
any one series or type of racing or driver for those who live "driven" lives.

After not getting call backs from other female racing inspired clothing lines, I decided that I could probably start one myself and where what I want to wear, and in the meantime, a few dollars at a time, save for my own racing career and eventually help other underfunded teams. 

They are babies of mine, seeds I've planted that are going to need a lot of nurturing to grow. But I'm happy to get them off the ground. I have so much more to learn about that industry but I'm slowing getting there and am hoping one day those lines will take off! Any advice/input on that is always welcome!
 
I would like to add a blurb on Mike Harmon. He has offered to oversee this program for me and I don't know what I would do without him. I am hoping my year will help him have a better year racing as well. Mike has always believed in me and I believe in him and think it would be fantastic for this to elevate two independent teams.

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