Jennifer Jo Cobb: Making Small Gains for Big-Picture Success in Long Run

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IApril 3, 2010

LEBANON, TN - APRIL 02:  Jennifer Jo Cobb, driver of the #10 Ford, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Nashville 200 at Nashville Superspeedway on April 2, 2010 in Lebanon, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

Facing an uphill battle is not something new for Jennifer Jo Cobb, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie who owns and drives the No. 10 Ford.

After years of racing sporadically in the Nationwide and ARCA RE/MAX divisions, the pride of Kansas City, Kan., has found herself with a huge career opportunity and a home in the Truck ranks.

In her first full season competing in a major NASCAR series, Cobb's made the most out of her limited resources, with adequate sponsorship and manpower against the powerhouse teams who have some affiliation to a Cup or Nationwide group.

Against the odds, she's stacked up well against the highly competitive freshman class, just within striking distance of the rookie points lead.

It's been a learning experience for the most part, learning the nuances of the trucks, as well as the racing code amongst the seasoned veterans and established winners who've been a fixture in these vehicles for several years.

All things considered, she's shown a bit of her potential through the four races held thus far in 2010.

While the finishes aren't exactly screaming instant success, much like Alan Kulwicki's initiation into Cup racing in 1986, Cobb has been showing flashes of brilliance with her efforts, supported by team general manager Mike Harmon and crew chief Rudy Pricker Jr.

When she looks back at her past racing experiences, she's grateful to be in the position she's in, racing with some of the sport's best like Ron Hornaday Jr., Todd Bodine, and Mike Skinner.

"I'll be the first to say that I've gotten in 'less than' equipment due to lack of funds," Cobb said during Bleacher Report's "Women In Motorsports" panel discussion . "This year makes me glad I gave it my all and stayed behind the wheel to persevere for a better opportunity."

Her diligence and attention to detail has been displayed in the first four races of the 2010 season, despite getting swept up in a first lap crash as a victim of circumstances during the season opener at Daytona.

Following her 34th place finish, the results have started to turn the corner for her No. 10 team. Witness:

Race No. 2 : After a poor qualifying effort of 31st at Atlanta, Cobb and JJCR team finished 21st, which was a victory of sorts with an ill-handling truck she has affectionately named "Marley."

She realized that "Marley" had its nose "pointed up" as well as it not being coil-bound with its springs.

Lesson learned : A tight truck means a comfortable ride, but a truck willing to go on the borderline of a loose, yet snug ride around the track translates to faster times in a race.

Race No. 3: Martinsville looked promising for Cobb, who tested at Caraway Speedway in anticipation for her first short track race in the big leagues of NASCAR. Those extra laps from the test session paid off, as she qualified 14th at the beloved paperclip-shaped track.

It looked like a great day of learning and a solid finish until her truck experienced electrical problems, resulting in a 26th-place finish and a DNF.

Lesson learned : Everything has to work and hold together in unison, no matter what spot you're in during the race. Finishing races translates to becoming a contender for good showings in a race-to-race basis.

Race No. 4: Friday night's Nashville 200 was a microcosm of her season, logging in laps as well as gaining a feel for the intermediate tracks with the truck. Starting 27th, Cobb brought the No. 10 Ford home with a decent 25th-place finish.

Lesson learned: As she said during the round table discussion last month, "You have to want it, work hard for it, and keep getting up, no matter how many times you are knocked down."

While she placed five laps behind race winner Kyle Busch, everything held together on every aspect of her race.

Now it's all about finding that speed, which she mentioned on her Twitter following the race at Nashville Superspeedway.

"We got the finishing part down, which is important," Cobb said through a Twitter entry. "Now we gotta get the passin' trucks part down! We're getting there."

Business savvy and fearless on the track, Cobb was realistic about her goals heading into the season. In a pre-season interview held after her acquisition of Rick Crawford's Circle Bar team, she understood the challenges that would stand in her team's way in its growing pain period.

"Having a good bit of money to start the season, but knowing it's not quite enough to finish," Cobb reflected. "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. Having enough money will be a major challenge so finding sponsorship is key. "

Thus far in 2010, she's raced with limited sponsorship, with her truck carrying the colors and logos of her business venture called "Driven Boutique," which are garments and fashion designed for any racing fan.

While her clothing line's had on-track time, JJCR could certainly use a full-time sponsor to help her team progress at a faster pace.

For now, like many racing greats who've had to start small with so little, Cobb and her crew arrive at each track as an underdog competitor amongst the sharks of the Truck Series.

It's all about small gains in the short-term, with day-to-day successes which will hopefully translate to big-picture success in the long run for the No. 10 Ford team.

Given the competitive nature of NASCAR racing and Cobb's strength and determination to succeed, stock car fans, competitors, and media outlets may want to pay attention to the Kansas City native as this season progresses with a tremendously talented rookie field.

With gradual gains that'll surely be supported with great finishes down the stretch, look for her Ford F-150 to march toward the front, mixing it up for top-10 finishes in the hotly-contested Truck division.