When you first put on the racecar driver suit, you dream of racing professionally in one of the big leagues of racing. You dream about racing at Daytona, Talladega, Indianapolis, or maybe you dream about being the guy to beat in the local area like Gene Claxton, Terry Bivins, Tom Charles, Kerry Davis, Rick Beebe, or Tim Karrick all were at one point in their racing careers. Yep, when you first put on that racing driver’s suit, you dream kind of like you do when you purchase a lottery ticket and then start thinking if I win how am I going to spend all that money.
The Great American Dream is all about starting with a dream and then making it happen. This inductee into the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame began with a dream and has made it happen. Many of us our jealous, we share those dreams of racing, but when you realize the hard work it took, the challenges which were overcome, the fortitude to carry on when the chips were down, then and only then, you will applaud the efforts of this inductee!
This driver began racing in 1991 at Lakeside Speedway in the Pony Stock class. On May 13, 1994 this driver took the first checkered flag of their career racing at Lakeside Speedway finishing ahead of David Cotterman, Erich Hamdorf, and Joe Schoenberger all previous Pony Stock Champions. The 1995 Lakeside racing season saw this inductee take the win twice, on August 4 and again the last race of the season, September 22. In 1995, this driver moved from the four-cylinder Pony Stock class to the eight cylinder more powerful Charger class.
Lakeside Speedway, August 15, 1997, this driver had been knocking on the door for a Charger feature win. Moving up a division and especially from four cylinders to eight cylinders requires adjusting to the car and horsepower changes. Against the likes of eventual Charger track champion Jim Carey, and feature win leader Mike Richardson, and multiple time Champion and Hall of Famer Tony Sawyer, this driver beat them all to the checkered flag for that first Charger win. With the dirt going down on Lakeside Speedway’s asphalt in 2000, this driver moved the racing operation to the asphalt high banks of I-70 Speedway.
I-70 Speedway banked 30 degrees in the turns, 7 degrees on the back straight and 4 degrees on the front straight was a challenge for all who crossed her path. If you won at I-70 Speedway you had racing respect from anyone who had taken the challenge and many stars crossed I-70 Speedway’s path. In fact, I remember former NFL Head Coach and at the time Craftsman Truck Racer Jerry Glanville telling this writer his teeth still hurt after hitting the I-70 Speedway turn 3 wall. In 2000, the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame Inductee crossed under the Terry Wantland raised checkered flag first in the Sportsman Division four different times.
With the opening of Kansas Speedway in 2001 it was a great opportunity for several of the Kansas City area racers to compete in ARCA or any of the NASCAR Series which would compete at the track. This driver followed several in the pursuit of competition and racing in front of the hometown crowd. The track also presented another opportunity for local racers, the opportunity to work for and be the expert racecar driver for the various driving schools. As a Late Model Competitor at I-70 Speedway, this inductee was one of those drivers turning many laps in the Richard Petty Driving Experience as an instructor and ride along driver. This opportunity also opened doors. Doors like becoming a racecar driver in the ARCA Series, where in nine starts this driver has three Top 10 finishes.
While still a local racer this driver served the Central Auto Racing Boosters as a Board of Director in 1995 and 1996. This driver was a writer for the All Speed Racing News.
Moving on from the local Kansas City racing where racers were leaving the high tire bill cost of asphalt racing and heading back to the dirt tracks, this driver headed the other way, to the NASCAR racing series which still competed on asphalt. This meant leaving the confines of the local racetracks.
In 2004, this inductee made their NASCAR debut in the then Busch Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway driving for Keith Coleman Racing. Unfortunately, a lap 2 crash took this driver and several others out of the race before the racing could even get going.
Who is the 45th Inductee into the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame? Who started locally and has raced at Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, Rockingham, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Eldora? How many past and current drivers would love to say they have raced at those venues? Who is this person who never forgot their roots? Who is a fan and media favorite when they visit Kansas Speedway?
We watched her grow in racing right before our very eyes, the one person who has raced at all those events is the owner and driver for Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing (JJCR). Jennifer has accomplished more than some of us can even dream. She has raced these venues; she has put in the work to make it happen. She is sought after as a motivational speaker because those doors did not impair her, they were just doors she could knock down.
Jennifer created a line of clothing for female race fans called Driver Boutique. On July 19, 2008, she competed in the Camping World Truck Series event at the Built Ford Tough 225. She has driven for 1991 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope. She bought the assets of the Number 10 truck team from Rick Crawford in 2010, starting what has become Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing. She has competed at tracks many current and former racers wish we had competed.
Her longevity in racing can be traced to her roots, her Mother, Connie, and Father, Joe. Joe had a tenacity to remain in racing for many years by out thinking and out working most racers with what was considered inferior equipment (not manufactured but instead built at home). He instilled this tenacity in Jennifer. When she wanted to race, she was expected to work on the racecar every night. One time she told Joe a white lie so she could attend the Kid Rock concert. Unfortunately, she was seen at the concert by the local Kid Rock, Kerry Davis, and he ratted her out to Joe. Oops! Fortunately, for her Joe learned to like Kid Rock music.
As she bought trucks for her race team, they all received a name. Her latest speedway truck is named for her mother, Connie Lou. The race team would like to get away from naming the trucks after people who have passed; however, you never know there may someday be one named Bob! Just another testament to her hometown roots!
She was raised as a girly girl and continues to be a beautiful racer inside and out. I asked her about being a role model for little girls and she is not sure she has been that person. However, this led to a couple of stories, one item, Jennifer did not allow pink on her race vehicles locally because she wanted to earn the respect of her male competitors.
Recently though at Talladega Speedway, she had a story amazing on all parts, the desire of fans to see her in competition, the assistance of those fans to get her back in the race, and the tweet she received afterwards. As an underfunded team, she only purchases one set of tires for the race truck. On lap 8 at Talladega another competitor had been leaking oil and, in the tri-oval, Jennifer raced into the oiled down track which sent the truck spinning. Slick tires and oil do not mix causing all kinds of issues and in this case, Jennifer saved the truck but flat spotted the tires. So, making it to pit road with flat spotted tires and no spare she sat. Normally as teams drop out there would be tires for her but on lap 8 she was stuck on pit road. She is sitting in the truck calculating which credit card has what credit to buy tires. Two fans staying on the infamous Talladega Boulevard heard about her dilemma and purchased a set of tires at $2,400 to get her back in the race. The Tweet (Twitter) she received after this is a testament to Jennifer’s tenacity – “Thank you for teaching my daughter to not ever give up”. That says a ton about our Kansas City Hometown Hero.
To think where racing has taken Jennifer! This past year she raced Spain and the United Kingdom and tested in the Netherlands. However, her motivational speaking at the request of the United States Embassy took her to Russia. She has traveled throughout Russia more than some Russians. However, she brings a perspective many of us do not read about in the media or think about and that is Russian History. In the last 100 plus years they have been ruled by a Monarchy, the Communist Party, and most recently have become a democracy. This has been quite a change in the economics of the country. Jennifer said it best in an Instagram post, “its such a wonderful feeling to travel the world and speak about overcoming adversity to #liveyourdream. When you see great young people of all nationalities really understand the message it brings things into perspective. Every failure has purpose if you let it. #nevergiveup Thank you for this opportunity @rusembusa”.
Next year JJCR will celebrate their 10th year in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck series. They are working on the color scheme at this time and it will have some pink in it but not a lot. For a local racer who has started next to and finished directly behind Kyle Busch in the trucks we could say Jennifer has made it. But she is not done!
We talked about the word Legacy. What will be your legacy in racing? What will be your legacy in life? Jennifer has a dream, everything starts with a dream, remember build it they will come, next year that baseball field will host a professional baseball game.
Jennifer’s dream is to build a race shop and Hall of Fame/Museum in Kansas City Kansas, her hometown. Along with the race shop and museum she will also establish a mentorship program to introduce our sport to those less fortunate and to help those learn how hard they may have to work to make the biggest stages. She has researched this dream enough to learn about Opportunity Zones. Don’t put it past this latest inductee in the Racingkc.com Hall of Fame. She has continued that Cobb tenacity to heights many of us have only dreamed of attaining! Congratulations Jennifer!