Jennifer Jo Cobb gets new ride
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Jennifer Jo Cobb, who walked away from her car about five minutes before the start of Saturday's Nationwide Series race in protest of having to start and park, will drive the No. 41 for Rick Ware Racing next weekend at California.
Meanwhile, Rick Russell, who signed Cobb to drive the first five Nationwide races of the season for 2nd Chance Motorsports, plans to sue for breach of contract.
Both parties said the partnership they formed before the season is over, but that is about all they agree on.
Cobb said she left the track because Russell informed her just prior to the start of the race that she would have to park after a few laps and that she would not drive for him at California. She said there was no mention of parking before then, and that when she informed Russell of plans to drive the entire race he threatened to have NASCAR black flag her.
Russell said it was clear after Cobb crashed at Las Vegas that he would park early at Bristol to preserve the car for California, noting he didn't hire a pit crew or buy tires to run the entire race. He said Cobb and her crew chief, Steve Kuykendall, purchased tires and hired a pit crew.
He added that Cobb already had breached her contract because she didn't provide the engine at Las Vegas and Bristol as the contract states. Cobb insisted she lived up to the contract, noting a second party provided $15,000 toward a $30,000 engine she used at Vegas.
Russell said Cobb knew well before the race she was going to have to park and that the move in front of a national television audience was premeditated.
"It was going to be done after California if she didn't make restitution for repairs on the car and the rental of motors," Russell said of the partnership. "I was giving her until the end of the race at Bristol to give me the money. She didn't have any money.
"They [Cobb, Kuykendall and pit crew] stood on pit road watching their watches until five minutes before the start time and left."
Again, Cobb disagreed. She in Friday's team meeting the discussion of driving conservatively to protect the car was the only thing that came up.
"We were in it for the entire race," she said. "The word 'start and park' or 'X amount of laps' was never said."
Cobb said Ware grabbed her as she was leaving the track and asked why she wasn't in the car. After learning of the situation she said he offered a short-term solution to drive one of his cars at California.
Cobb said she has her own car and engine that will be ready for the Texas race. She plans no legal action against Russell as long as he returns a few items -- including the seat, dry brake system and shock -- that she owns.
Russell said the seat already has been removed from the car.
"I don't think it's worth it," Cobb said of legal action. "If I can get at least one or two of my things back, I'm satisfied to walk away."
Cobb said Russell tried to have Kuykendall arrested for trying to retrieve personal belongings of hers and guests in the hauler.
"I hosted female soldiers for my Drive2Honor program and he had a soldier in tears because he refused to let her have her purse," Cobb said. "After an hour and NASCAR intervening, she got it back."
Both parties met separately with NASCAR on the matter. A NASCAR official said the issue is between Cobb and Russell and that the governing body will not get involved.
Cobb said she's had overwhelming support on Twitter and Facebook, noting defending Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski defended her action on Twitter.
"I just really respect her for making the tough choice [but the right one]," Keselowski wrote.
Russell said Cobb put his phone number as well as his wife's on Facebook, and that he's had at least 25 harassing calls. He said the 2nd Chance Motorsports website had to be shut down. Cobb said the number was put up by somebody she didn't know and that she had it taken down.
Cobb said some drivers suggested she should have wrecked the car instead of walking away, but she believes she made the right choice.
"As I walked away I thought, 'Oh, what have I done?' " Cobb said. "I turned back to my crew chief and saw the line of employees and teammates. [Kuykendall] said, 'That's right, keep going. You are my hero.' "
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.