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Did You Notice?: Matt Mills Is No Jennifer Jo Cobb, NASCAR Says

Did You Notice? … Matt Mills got approved to run his first NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday (May 1) at Kansas Speedway? The decision to enter Mills in the No. 55 for BJ McLeod Motorsports comes days after officials denied Jennifer Jo Cobb her first Cup start at Talladega Superspeedway.

Mills, a NASCAR Xfinity Series regular, has been approved to take the next step of his career. The 24-year-old has never led a lap in 79 career NXS starts, finishing on the lead lap just 11 times. He has just one career top-10 finish, at Daytona International Speedway in the summer of 2019, while piling up 16 DNFs in underfunded equipment.

Is that really a better track record than the 47-year-old Cobb, who has 248 career starts in the sport’s Xfinity and Camping World Truck series? She has the same number of lead-lap finishes (11) yet has also led 23 laps, including 16 last fall at Talladega, the very track she wasn’t allowed to race in Cup. Cobb also has one career top-10 finish, at Daytona in 2011, while failing to finish 77 times between the two divisions.

It’s not Mills’ fault he got dragged into this mess; the young driver’s just trying to advance his career, like Cobb. But why does a sport focused on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion choose to give one comparable driver the green light while keeping the other sitting on the sidelines?

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NASCAR president Steve Phelps doesn’t see it that way. Instead, he doubled down on the decision, backing his people when asked about it in a Sunday press conference.

“Steve O’Donnell, Scott Miller, Elton Sawyer, 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 that they have their finger on the pulse, and in their opinion Jennifer wasn’t ready to race in this race.”

The trio of vice presidents, all related to competition, made their choice, alright. It just feels like their heart rate’s going through a little arrhythmia. Chad Finchum was approved to attempt the 2020 Daytona 500 with one Cup race to his name and just five lead-lap finishes in 70 NXS starts. Quin Houff was approved to run the Cup level in 2019 after 10 total NXS starts and two lead-lap finishes.

You get the point. If not now for Cobb, a full-time competitor at the Truck level for over a decade … when? And if NASCAR says the issue is they’re getting more stringent on driver approvals, how in the world does a driver like Mills get approved for Cup days later? They better shut the windows in those Daytona Beach offices, ’cause I hear the hypocrisy almost 1,000 miles away.

For Cobb, the move has come with consequences, as she explained in a wide-ranging interview that broke Tuesday night (April 27) with Kelly Crandall of RACER. Unlike Mills, who drives for someone else, Cobb owns her Camping World Truck Series team. It wasn’t the organization she was going to run Cup with (that was Rick Ware Racing) but a public denial of her ability to move up has hurt her weekly search for sponsorship.

“How do I now move forward and ask for sponsor meetings for my truck,” Cobb told Crandall, “Have them Google me and go, the president of NASCAR said this about her, why would we take a meeting? It’s embarrassing.”

You also can’t ignore that, for a sport stressing diversity, the decision was made by three white men. While I don’t think that was an issue in their decision-making, it has to be said when the sport is trumpeting their efforts in this area at every turn.

A solution here is simple: better communication and transparency from NASCAR on the approvals process. The decision of approval in the first place feels like NFL officials making a decision on whether a team’s starting quarterback is good enough to play.

You never want that level of subjectivity entering your sport. So why not put together a clear-cut approvals process? You can’t have it both ways, accepting drivers like Shane Golobic who have zero NASCAR experience in eight years into the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt Cup race before denying one of your regulars with a decade of experience the opportunity to move up. Sure, Golobic has plenty of dirt experience … let the debate begin. But it’s subjective.

And a gray area is not where NASCAR wants to be. Either make a clear, public approvals process with guidelines and boundaries or go, hey, it’s up to the teams to decide who’s capable of driving their racecar. Meddling in the middle never did anyone any good.

Did You Notice? … The 16 winners debate is at a crossroads? Fellow Frontstretch writer Nick Tylwalk made a very compelling case, showcasing a long list of drivers who haven’t won.

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But this graphic (hat tip: Mark Kristl) reminds me what I wrote about a few weeks ago, predicting the second coming of the sport’s Big 3.

Through 10 races.

Posted by NASCAR on FOX on Monday, April 26, 2021

This time, instead of the Big 3 drivers in Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, we have the Big 3 teams. Nine of 11 drivers who run full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske have won. These drivers occupy 10 of the top 11 spots in the current point standings, 11 of the 16 postseason spots and own all but a handful of playoff points awarded.

Hendrick, Penske and Gibbs have collected 76% of top-five finishes this season and 61% of top 10s. With those kinds of numbers, are we fooling ourselves to think their dominance will stop?

Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch still have yet to win from that group. That pushes the total number of winning drivers to 12. From there, whether we get to 16 hinges on how much strength any other organization (Stewart-Haas Racing? Richard Childress Racing?) has to break through this level of dominance.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off….

  • There’s no denying Ross Chastain has had a rough start in his first season running for Chip Ganassi Racing. But did you know that when he led 12 laps Sunday at Talladega, that was one less than Matt Kenseth led for nearly an entire season (32 races) in that car? Maybe the No. 42 team fell further behind than anyone thought; after all, teammate Kurt Busch is no longer in playoff position 10 races into the year.
  • What a week for the Burtons. Harrison runs 20th in his first Cup start, in position for a top-10 result until the final restart while Jeb wins his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race. Remember when Jeb jumped too soon to Cup, running for BK Racing, and seemingly torpedoed his stock car career? To have revived it at 28 years old, over-the-hill these days for NASCAR prospects, is a bit of a minor miracle. Yet look at what Kaulig Racing has done the past few seasons, injecting life into AJ Allmendinger while advancing Chastain’s career on his way to the Cup level. Impressive.
  • Brett Moffitt has a tough road into the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs after choosing to run for points in that series instead. Missing out on points in the first seven races, he trails 12th-place Brandon Brown for inclusion by a whopping 168 markers. But if the other seven races were allowed to count? He’d be just four points behind. I understand why the rule is written this way, to discourage drivers from running for titles in both series but surprising starts like Moffitt’s in NXS should be rewarded. He earned those early-season finishes; why shouldn’t they count?
  • The TV ratings for Talladega complicate Joey Logano‘s push for changes in superspeedway competition (see my CBS Sports article this week for more). When you’re tying the Daytona 500 as the most-watched race of the 2021 season, the fan’s choice in the type of racing they’d like to see is pretty clear.

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33 thoughts on “Did You Notice?: Matt Mills Is No Jennifer Jo Cobb, NASCAR Says”

  1. I’m sure the outrage when James Davison was denied his Cup debut at Talladega last season is on the same level as the JJC “outrage”, I must’ve just missed those articles last season.

    Could anyone link me to those articles so I could check them out? Thanks

  2. With James Davison and Jennifer (along with Hoeff and others) the criteria needs to be defined. Perhaps a drivers test like rookies go through at Indy is required for Superspeedways. While the different divisions of cars and trucks drive differently, its everyone’s first race sometime. Ten plus years in trucks doesn’t qualify you, but a couple seasons at the back of the pack in Xfinity does? It certainly appears that this is personal and not at all a professional decision made by Nascar who would normally disembowel itself to get another diversity point.

    • If jennifer jo Cobb had been been asked to drive for off or Hendrick or shr or penske nascar would have approved her fast than a top fuel dragster covers a 1/4 mile. Nascar just come on out and tell the real reason it’s because she is a woman NOTHING ELSE

  3. First off, I had no idea JJC was that old.
    So maybe she should see if she could run a cup short or intermediate track before a monster restrictor plate track, In fact, if I were in charge, my policy would be to never let the first race someone runs in cup be Talladega or Daytona unless their experience level is unquestionable. Kinda just seems like common sense.

    • I agree with you totally. Pick any other race but a super speedway and go for it. I really wonder why they chose dega ! I know they let Burton race, but he is far from being a dart without feathers.

  4. First, Kansas is not Talladega. Second, again – don’t mess with Norm. Any driver that has angered the France family in some way has learned who owns the sport. Last – the little bump the sport sees at plate races is not from “fans” – the few remaining fans are already watching – and it’s NASCAR’s stupidity in trying to attract that type that has destroyed the sport.

  5. WJW is correct. Kansas is not Dega. And I presume James Davison is male. I don’t understand why FS is continuing to kick this dead horse. Of course, Dega ratings are good. The fans who enjoy wrecks and mayhem over actual racing always tune in to that one. They’re the same ones who tune into WWE and the like.

    Tom Bowles seems to still be bitter about losing his job.

  6. “I understand it may seem ambiguous to those outside, but I think that they have their finger on the pulse”

    Brian could feel the pulse too and made the same kinds of decisions. Some things will never change.

  7. I’am surprised The Bubba hasn’t chimed in with his discrimation comments.. He’s a driver with one of the best funded teams and is basically an also ran..I guess if it’s not self serving on his part why bother.. Rather revealing.. I think Jennifer behind the wheel of his ride would be much more productive.. Thanks for revealing your true colors Bubba.

    • They can’t have a woman go out and beat Bubba now can they. Get real . you know she would . no doubt.

      • Based on what? Bubba won 6 races in her division. She has one Top-Ten in her entire career. She has no business in Cup.

        I guess folks on FS decide to go all feminist to cover their racist attitude.

        • Shove your racist BS where it belongs, over in the Noose is Loose garage, they’re the only ones believing that BS, besides you of course.

    • 🤗🤗🤗very true. NASCAR should have had Jennifer or any other Woman drive when Patrick was championed in with No wins no real skills. There was a young woman driver in trucks then but her family couldn’t keep funding. She was better than Patrick.

  8. Mills getting the nod at a mile-and-a-half track is no surprise. NASCAR must have felt Jennifer Jo Cobb would have been a danger in pack racing. I disagree with that conclusion, but I understand approving someone for a superspeedways carries different considerations than a short track, intermediate track, or road course. Harrison Burton getting the nod and Jennifer not is the real comparison.

    Mills will do fine in the 55. He’ll probably finish 7 laps down or so and that’s okay for the equipment he’ll be driving. If he just hangs with the RWR cars, stays out of trouble, and brings it home undamaged, that’ll be mission accomplished.

    • I wonder how many cautions he will bring out? That’s why the car is in the example of Brian’s product.

  9. The Kentucky Derby programming starts at 2:30PM on Saturday. The race is scheduled for 6:57PM. It will be over in about 2 minutes.

  10. I & my family like many forms of auto racing & NASCAR used to be #1 on our list with NHRA being 2nd..
    We would attend a NASCAR race here & there and watch on TV when attending in person was not an option.. However, over the last few years it has dropped down a few steps. Now with b.s. crap, I can see NASCAR not just dropping further down the list. What I can see is NASCAR falling completely off the list.

  11. did i miss it?
    what are jjc truck results on talledega and daytona?
    has anyone shared that?
    has she been a consistent instigator and the cause of several “big ones?”
    if not…
    shame on nascar.
    if so..
    maybe they have a point.

  12. Simple observation. NASCAR is prejudiced against women. They are so silly with their decisions. Let her race you bunch of hypocrites. It’s all about profit. I agree with the post about Nascar sponsorship and viewing is down. Wonder why?

    • You are right – they are prejudiced towards women. A woman will never have any power or respect in that organization (just don’t mention it to Lesa)……

  13. Talladega and Kansas are two COMPLETELY different animals. If Jennifer would request to race Kansas, I’m pretty sure NASCAR would grant her request.

  14. Jen Jo Cobb is a much better talent then most of the guys running in the back of the pack in the cup series. If she had the same equipment as bubba she would probably do much better than he ever aspired to do. The only reason he has a ride is the color of his skin .
    Nascar is showing thier true selves by denying JJC the opportunity to race at Talladega.

  15. Nascar since the new new world order of nascar has been placed in control has done nothing. But ruin the great sport of car racing to suit their needs. By how they play politics. Sence when did politics become car racing. Both Bill senior an Bill jr. Are turning over in their graves with so much redderic the way the sport that was built for the fans an drivers. What the heck. Is this what we want no we want racing to be fair not controlled by total idiots.

  16. She needs to sue them , such disrespect to women more experienced, than the group riding in back quit watching Nascar.

  17. Ya I’m going to remove the site from my recommend.

    It’s nice how your trying to make something out of this that isn’t there… millis wouldn’t of been approved for talladega either… Cobb would of been approved for Kansas
    Keep up the great reporting I find it interesting this is the first article I ever read on this site first time I’ve heard of it and it will be the last article I read here.

  18. Jennifer jo cobb was asked to drive the rwr car. No one has asked her to drive cup at kansas, so how can she race cup there? Jennifer jo cobb is the 21st century’s wendell scott! Read about how the frances and race track owners treated wendell scott.

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