Why did NASCAR not approve Jennifer Jo Cobb to race in the Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend? I know they put out their reasoning, but I still think it’s a bit unfair. – Shiela P., Little Rock, Arkansas
For those who don’t know NASCAR’s reasoning, here it is.
Jennifer Jo Cobb not approved to run Cup at Dega.
–NASCAR: Decision based on performance/quality.
–NASCAR has been more stringent w/ recent Cup approvals.
–She was yrs ago OK'd for Cup but if don't run in series for a yr, must get re-approved.
–NOT result of Richmond-Norm
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) April 19, 2021
I disagree vehemently with this decision and said as much when it came out.
I'm all for a more stringent process but it's hard to look at guys like Derrike Cope and Bill Lester who hadn't A). Been competitive or B). Been driving in NASCAR for YEARS (among others) be approved & JJC is axed.
I disagree with the decision but my opinion means nothing, so ??♂️ https://t.co/K7mufCsFbb
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) April 19, 2021
First and foremost, the decision was based on performance/quality on track. Cobb has 217 career Camping World Truck Series starts and has only finished on the lead lap 11 times. One would look at that and say, “Huh, doesn’t seem like she has much performance.”
And they’d be right. She’s with an underfunded, small team and has been for the entirety of her Truck Series career. But with 11 national series starts at the very track she would be debuting at in the NASCAR Cup Series (and a clean track record, for the most part), it seemed like a no-brainer that she’d get approved.
NASCAR being more stringent with the approval process is a very good thing. Brad Keselowski was openly candid about Quin Houff being approved to run Cup full-time last season after his Texas Motor Speedway debacle, and he’s right. There needs to be more of a formal, transparent, understandable and reasonable process for drivers to get approved to run in any series, especially the premier one.
… But Derrike Cope at 62 years old, who hadn’t competed in a Cup race in two years and hadn’t run a full-time Cup schedule since 1995 (!), was approved in the very same car as Cobb (the No. 15 for Rick Ware Racing) to run at basically a Talladega carbon copy track in the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500? That ain’t it, chief. Not for me.
Cope, you might remember, was the car putting around on the apron as the field flashed by in the second Bluegreen Vacations Duel, which took place the Thursday prior to the 500.
Pucker factor 92747494847383 pic.twitter.com/zfkHXyo8Vb
— Ryan Ellis (@ryanellisracing) February 12, 2021
Cope crashed on lap 3 and finished dead last, 197 laps down, by the way, in the Great American Race.
Or how about Bill Lester, who hadn’t made a NASCAR start of any kind in almost 15 years, but came back with no problem whatsoever for the Truck race at Atlanta Motor Speedway with David Gilliland Racing (finished 36th, seven laps down)?
I’m not saying Cobb would have gone out and won the race on Sunday. Heck, she probably would have finished in the 30s, multiple laps down and been a complete non-factor. But that’s not the issue here. The problem for NASCAR is consistency.
Cobb is an experienced racecar driver who would’ve done no worse than Cope, Lester or any other driver who has been approved for their Cup debuts/NASCAR returns. And becoming the first woman since Danica Patrick in 2018 to race in the premier series would’ve been a cool storyline, especially in the midst of the sanctioning body’s push for diversity and inclusion.
But alas, it’ll have to wait for JJC. Let’s just hope she gets the opportunity she deserves … eventually.
Is it time for Chase Elliott to worry? His three teammates have won, and he’s still winless, despite being the defending champion. – Rick P., Hampton, Georgia
Absolutely not. Elliott will win multiple races this season, easily, and probably will dominate at least two or three road courses coming up in the summer months. Theres’s six more road courses on the schedule, and Elliott winning at least one of them should be the lock of the century.
Brett Griffin hypothesized on Door Bumper Clear this week that the No. 9 team may be hiding their full potential at the moment, knowing that they can and will turn it on when it matters (like they did last year at Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix Raceway). I’m not sure if I subscribe to that notion, but there is a part of it that could be true for crew chief Alan Gustafson.
I’m not saying Elliott is not trying to win races right now. I just think there’s absolutely zero reason to panic.
The defending champion has three top-five and four top-10 finishes this season, and with his three other teammates already visiting victory lane, there’s plenty of speed at Hendrick Motorsports. The No. 9 is next in line to grab a checkered flag and is a virtual lock to make the playoffs. So fans of Elliott shouldn’t even be breaking a sweat. He’ll be just fine.
About the author
Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.
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