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Acceptance the biggest accomplishment for Cobb

January 05, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Making history not as important as being respected by other drivers

Jennifer Jo Cobb was roughly halfway through the 2010 Camping World Truck Series season when she realized she was in position to accomplish something that had never been done.

Cobb was on her way to becoming the highest-finishing female competitor of any season in the history of NASCAR's three national touring series.

"The biggest thing I'm proud of this year is to have such veteran drivers as Todd Bodine and Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday and David Starr sort of check in on me every once in a while to ask, 'How are you doing? Do you need anything?' ... For them to even look our way or know who we are, that's nice."

--JENNIFER JO COBB

"At whatever point that it became apparent we were going to be able to do that, it really made the season that much more special -- and also historical," Cobb said.

Driving the No. 10 Ford for her own Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing team and funded mostly by private investors, Cobb ended up finishing 17th in the Truck point standings. The previous highest finish in a season for a female was by Tammy Jo Kirk, who ran in 19 of 26 Truck events in 1997 and ended up 20th in points.

Competing in all 25 races, Cobb had an average start of 27.8 and an average finish of 23.3. Her top finishes were a pair of 14ths -- at Texas Motor Speedway and at Darlington Raceway, respectively.

Prior to 2010, she had run a total of just four races in the Truck Series with a top finish of 26th at Kentucky in 2008.

As proud as she is of her historic accomplishment, there was something that meant more to Cobb as the season progressed. It was the respect of many of her fellow competitors, earned during the course of the year.

When Cobb was one of four women to make the Kroger 200 field at Martinsville last October, she was part of another NASCAR first. It was there that four-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday took note of her improvement and commented on it.

"Jennifer Jo Cobb, it's so unbelievable what she's done from the first race of the [2010] season to where she's at now," Hornaday said. "She's really improved at knowing where her truck is at, her spotter is doing a great job. Her truck actually is running better, too, so you don't lap her as much. These girls, once they get that truck underneath them, they're fine."

Kyle Busch also complimented Cobb and the other female drivers, which at Martinsville that day included sisters Angela and Amber Cope and Johanna Long.

"I think the biggest deal is just confidence, being able to have the truck under you and being able to believe in it and knowing how far to push it," Busch said. "Just being able to get the track time they need and deserve is always beneficial. The way our testing rules are, you can't go test anywhere. So for them, a lot of times the first time they get to a race track is the first time they've seen it, so anytime they can get some laps in and get that experience it's going to help."

Cobb said gaining the respect of her fellow male competitors was the result of getting more time on the track with them, and being willing to learn from them every lap along the way.

"The biggest thing I'm proud of this year is to have such veteran drivers as Todd Bodine and Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday and David Starr sort of check in on me every once in a while to ask, 'How are you doing? Do you need anything?,' " Cobb said.

"Skinner bumped me in Phoenix. ... He said, 'I wasn't trying to hurt you; I was trying to teach you.' I told him, 'And you did, and I thank you.' So that's been the coolest thing."

Cobb said the incident occurred as her and Skinner were attempting to get to pit road. She was a lap down to Skinner and he thought she was holding him up. So Skinner tapped her truck from behind as a reminder.

She didn't mind. She took it as a learning opportunity -- and said later that the comments and feedback she received from veteran drivers as the year progressed meant as much to her as anything, or more.

"That's huge. In a way, it's everything," Cobb said. "I learned a long time ago not to be a people pleaser. ... I'm just as hard on myself as anyone else could be -- so if a fan is saying it or if anybody is saying it, I've already thought it. It's not news to me; it's not shocking.

"So for those guys to reach out and acknowledge what our small team, underfunded, is trying to accomplish ... I mean, for them to even look our way or know who we are, that's nice. I believe it's because they see how hard we work and they know I do my best to show them respect on the race track. If the leaders are side-by-side and they're going to pass you going into [Turn] 3, I'm going to do what I need to do to not affect that outcome. And I think they know that and appreciate that."

Cobb hopes to be able to run a full-time Truck Series schedule again in 2011, as well as several Nationwide Series races. She announced a deal Wednesday to run five Nationwide races for 2nd Chance Motorsports, which is owned and operated by Rick and Pam Russell -- but her overall plans, like so many others in racing these days, depend on how much sponsorship money she can land.

Meanwhile, she can take solace in the fact that Hornaday paid her the ultimate compliment. He said Cobb and other female drivers are "just a number for me to pass when I come up on 'em. It's no different than trying to pass Skinner."

So Cobb, 37, has arrived as one of the gang, which is a dream come true.

"I've just worked very, very hard for 20-plus years to make my racing come to fruition," she said. "I was 8 years old when I said I wanted to be a race-car driver, 18 when I first started racing -- and it was always, 'That's impossible. There's not enough money to make that happen.'

"I believe in Godly principles and I believe in reaching for the stars. And if other people are out there making it happen, there's got to be a way to do it. ... At the end of the day, we're doing this with about 10 percent of what many other teams' budgets are, which is just phenomenal."

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