March 28, 2011
By now, you've certainly heard the story of Jennifer Jo Cobb, the driver who dramatically stormed away from her car just minutes before the Nationwide race at Bristol Motor Speedway because she was told that she would have to pull off the track just shortly after the race started to preserve the car.
That episode earned Cobb a ride with Rick Ware Racing for Saturday's Nationwide race at Auto Club Speedway. Cobb qualified 40th and on lap 20 she spun off of turn four towards the infield. The spin flattened her tires and her splitter dug into the grass but the damage was minimal.
19 laps later -- and 11 laps after she received the Lucky Dog on the next caution -- Cobb was out of the race. The official reason on the NASCAR scoresheet? Handling, a common reason for retirement listed by many cars that start-and-park, the exact practice that Cobb protested at Bristol. (If you're new to NASCAR, starting and parking is a practice of qualifying for a race and pulling off of the track in the early laps to save money on tires, engine wear and crew costs, among other things.)
After Bristol, Rick Russell, who owned the car that Cobb was supposed to drive in that race, filed suit against Cobb for breach of contract and the two are currently feuding over items that were found in a storage shed.
Maybe the damage to the car at ACS was more than met the eye and the car wasn't drivable. But if that was the case, why wasn't "accident" or "suspension" given as the reason for retirement? Putting "handling" on the scoresheet leaves a lot open for interpretation.
Sure, Cobb didn't have a chance of winning Saturday's race without the help of a Talladega-style big one that took out the rest of the competition but it was her chance to show the the NASCAR world that still cared about her case against starting-and-parking that she was sticking to her principles once again. Instead, she completed 38 of the scheduled 200 laps and we really don't know why.
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