FOX Sports Exclusive
Cobb replaced for refusing to 'start and park'
Jennifer Jo Cobb and 2nd Chance Motorsports owner Rick Russell parted ways prior to the start of Saturday's Scotts EZ Seed 300.
Prerace coverage from Kansas begins June 5 at 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
Cobb told reporters she refused to start and park the No. 79 Ford on Saturday. That she had come to the Nationwide Series expecting to race.
Russell told FOXSports.com that he wasn’t financially in a position to run the entire race after Cobb totaled the team’s car in Phoenix two weeks ago. The team failed to qualify for Daytona and finished 30th in Las Vegas.
"We totally destroyed our car in Vegas," Russell said. "I had the body totally replaced except the greenhouse, decklid and rear bumper. We had to basically put a new body in the car. We already had our entry in for here. We were coming up here to be very conservative, qualify for the race, make a few laps to get our start money and park the car so we could go on to California where we could race.
"That was all well and good until mid-afternoon when the crew chief (Steve Kuykendall) told me they'd bought tires and they had hired a pit crew. I didn't bring my pit crew with me because we weren’t going to pit stop. I said, 'Where did you get that idea? We’re not pitting.' And he said, 'Well, we already bought tires.' I said, 'I didn’t tell you to buy tires. This is my car. I’m telling you what we're going to do.'
“Well, they took it on themselves to think they were running the show and Jennifer was making the calls. And on pit road, I informed her that she wasn’t making the calls, that I owned this team. So she took her crew and left five minutes before start time.”
Russell said that Cobb, 37, rents the ride and provides Kuykendall and other team members, engines and tires.
“The motor she has wasn’t a motor we could qualify with," he added. "We missed Daytona with that motor. We went to Phoenix with that motor and couldn’t keep out of everybody’s way. So I bought a motor for Vegas from Roush and that’s my motor in the car. So I gave her the opportunity to pay me the motor expense — according to our contract — and she refused to do it.
"She was telling me that she was racing today. And I told her I would have her black-flagged. 'You will not race today. We're not here to wreck another car.' Then she walked off.”
Russell was able to track down Chris Lawson to drive the No. 79 Ford. However, since NASCAR mandated a caution after the first 25 laps for the new tires, Russell was forced to purchase a new set of right side tires for the car. Lawson waited in the cockpit until the tires were put on the car and took his first of four laps on Lap 141. The car was scored 41st.
FOXSports.com could not reach Cobb for comment but she later released a statement.
"It feels like such a 'Jerry Maguire' moment. There were rumblings all week about us start and parking this race. I have a commitment to my sponsors, my fans, NASCAR that I won't start and park. I'm very serious about my career and my performance, and I've worked hard to prove it to everyone.
"The conversation was never had with me until 10 minutes before the race that I was to start and park. I had already bought tires for the race, so you can imagine that this was a blow to my principles and my finances to get this news. As the owner of 2nd Chance, he has the right to ask NASCAR to black flag me and said he would do that if I didn't comply.
"There were also rumors that he was going to surprise me and take me out of the car at California. We have a five race agreement that says I am racing for him, which is why I decided to collect Nationwide Series points and not Camping World Truck Series points. Because of those promises, I made decisions accordingly for my career.
"So after thinking about it for a few minutes, which there weren't many, I made a decision to walk away. I thank God for giving me the strength to do that. Sometimes that is the best thing to do. I just felt like I owed it to my fans and my sponsors that I'm seeking and to NASCAR that if I say, 'I'm here to race,' that I go out and race."