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Jennifer Jo Cobb’s exclusion at Talladega a head-scratcher

NASCAR’s call to declare Jennifer Jo Cobb ineligible to run the Geico 500, the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on April 25, was quite controversial. The decision was highly publicized, as Rick War Racing already had announced that the longtime NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver would make her Cup Series debut in the race.

When I first heard the news of NASCAR’s decision I didn’t think much about it other than Rick Ware Racing jumped the gun on its announcement. Since then, the decision to not allow Cobb to run the Cup race at Talladega last weekend has been somewhat of a head-scratcher for me.

At first, I read that she wasn’t approved because, according to NASCAR rules, a driver must re-apply to run in a series if they haven’t competed in that series in a year. The way the rule was written confused me, so I just assumed that she was denied entry in the Geico 500 because she didn’t make the proper request to enter the race. I realized that was, indeed, the case when the rule was, at lease somewhat, more clearly explained to me that Cobb received approval to race in Cup years ago, but after a year of not contesting a Cup race a driver must reapply to contest  race in that series.

Okay, that makes sense. But, then again, does it, really? According to Cobb, NASCAR was aware of and seemed to be okay with her running the Geico 500, at first. According to her, NASCAR approved the paint scheme on the car she planned to drive, even though the plan for the paint scheme clearly showed her name on the windshield. She also claims her Cup Series driver agreement was signed by NASCAR. Also, her Talladega race entry forms and her Cup Series license application was signed and returned to her by NASCAR.

Besides, when questioned about the decision during the Talladega race weekend, NASCAR President Steve Phelps cited a lack of experience as the reason for not approving Cobb to run the Cup race there.

“Steve O’Donnell (NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer), Scott Miller (NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition), Elton Sawyer (NASCAR Vice President of Officiating and Technical Inspection), these guys have decades of experience in this sport,” Phelps said. “In their opinion, Jennifer did not have the experience necessary in order to run in the Cup race. I understand it may seem ambiguous to those outside, but I think they have their finger on the pulse, and in their opinion, Jennifer wasn’t ready to race in this race.”

Cobb has 248-career starts across NASCAR’s other two national series (Xfinity and Truck), including 11 (nine in Truck, two in Xfinity) at Talladega. She posted a best finish of 11th in the Truck Series race there in 2018.

Harrison Burton, meanwhile, was allowed to make his Cup Series debut at Talladega on Sunday. Am I suggesting Burton shouldn’t have gotten clearance? No, I’m not saying that at all. Instead, I’m saying that Cobb should’ve also been cleared. Burton was one of at least 12 drivers who started Sunday’s race, despite less NASCAR national-level experience than Cobb at Talladega. Put simply, more than a quarter of the drivers on Sunday’s starting grid had less experience than Cobb, most of them significantly less.

In the case of Burton, I’ll quickly acknowledge that he’s run much better in his limited starts in other series, mind you in much better equipment. What about Josh Bilicki and Quin Houff, though? They haven’t exactly set the world on fire in their three or fewer national-level starts at Talladega. But they were both in Sunday’s race.

I’m not accusing NASCAR of sexism for denying Cobb the opportunity to make her Cup Series debut at Talladega. I prefer to assume the decision was a gross lapse in judgement. And a gross lapse it was.

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Posted by on April 28, 2021. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.