As the Jennifer Jo Cobb vs. Rick Russell saga approaches midweek, the mudslinging continues.
[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”262″][/media-credit]What started as pure confusion Saturday afternoon when it was reported that Cobb was getting out of the No. 79 before the start of the Scotts EZ Seed 300 has turned into flat out drama. Both sides are alleging wrong doings and battle lines are being formed.
There won’t be any winners in this fight.
Of course the court the public opinion is always rendering verdicts. And there are plenty of opinions to go around, in this sport that’s nothing new. As soon as both sides had their say on Saturday, the responses started coming. Many drivers, owners, fans and media members told Cobb “kudos” for taking the action that she did.
Case closed for the court of public opinion, Cobb has already been declared the winner. But it’s just not the simple.
The reason is that while she will be racing this upcoming at the Auto Club Speedway for Rick Ware Racing, last week won’t be put behind her. This is far from over, unfortunately for her and for everyone involved in the sport.
For 2nd Chance Racing they are now looking for a driver and fielding the backlash from their decision in Bristol. An owner having to defend his action is abnormal; the driver is usually the one with some explaining to do.
At this point ladies and gentlemen it’s just sad.
Everyone loves a good drama and NASCAR is certainly no stranger to such events. But this drama is between a driver and team that do not need to be in the spotlight. Both are still trying to get their big break and make headlines for accomplishments.
Now they’ve taken center stage, become storyline A for not playing nice.
It was Kyle Busch who asked the fans before the start of the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, “Can’t we all be friends?”
The answer is an astounding no. When saying that 2nd Chance Racing has been dealing with the backlash it may have been putting it lightly. They’ve been getting burned and burned badly.
Before sunset on Saturday they had to take down their Facebook account because of all the messages they were receiving. Since then their Twitter page has also been taken down.
Social networking at its best, it’s great when it’s there and provides and inside look for fans of the sport as well as a great communication tool for teams and drivers. Yet, when something goes wrong it helps deliver blows.
After the incident on Saturday the voice behind the Twitter page for 2nd Chance Racing did their best to explain the situation to fans. But every one of their messages came off in a negative way and weren’t well received. In a way, they just added fuel to the fire.
Messages like: “For anyone that disagrees with any decisions we make, no one is making you ‘follow’ us.” Or, “It is not my place to give the details. All I will say is wait for the official word if you want to know the true story.”
There was also, “Owner unable to hear reporter track-side due to hearing loss from fighting in Vietnam. Want to blame him for that too?”
It’s hard to find anyone, at least those who will admit it, that agree with them.
Then again, if the allegations from Cobb are true, such as Russell refusing to return her driver’s seat, it becomes hard. By not returning a driver’s seat, it is as Cobb said, a safety issue. It is also pure childish.
Such behavior from a team owner is appalling but it should be remembered that at this point it is just an accusation. Accusations that are making Russell and company come off as the villains and let Cobb walk with her head held high.
From Russell’s standpoint, Cobb went behind his back to try and race on Saturday. She and crew chief Steve Kuykendall were putting a pit crew together when they knew beforehand that they were not going to be racing.
According to Russell, everyone understood they were starting and parking.
He also claims team members attempted to remove parts from the car. And as of Tuesday night he had filed police reports for larceny charges against Cobb. Claiming that $16,000 worth of car parts was stolen from him.
There is no end in sight for these two. If NASCAR fans thought the ongoing battle between NASCAR and Jeremy Mayfield was getting out of hand, Cobb and Russell could be headed down the same path.
Yet, what is made this become news and become big news has nothing to do with a driver walking away from their team. For instance, Kasey Kahne did the same thing last year to his Budweiser team after crashing out of an event.
He refused to get back in the car. Even Kyle Busch has done the same thing. Back in 2007 at Texas when Busch wrecked he walked away and headed home as his team repaired the car.
Those incidents were dropped within a day.
The real root of Cobb vs. Russell saga is the fact that it had to do with what has become a necessary evil in NASCAR: starting and parking.
Nowhere in the NASCAR rulebook does it say that a team cannot start and park. But again, in the court of public opinion you better think otherwise. By Russell deciding his team needed to do so in order to race in California it got everyone’s attention and it got attention fast.
He and 2nd Chance Racing immediately became the bad guys. How dare they start and park?
Cobb immediately won the fans over and never took a lap on the racetrack. Hooray for her for refusing to do such a ridiculous thing anyway.
Starting and parking will never, ever go over well with anyone in the sport. Except maybe those who are being forced to do so just to be able to race. It’s something that is never going to fly under the radar either, not with ESPN broadcaster Marty Reid being sure to point out which drivers have pulled behind the wall.
Now when Cobb and Russell going at it, starting and parking has been given a whole new platform. Who would have ever thought it with all the other great action and storylines out there?
Drivers who are never a factor are mentioned every weekend.
That’s why people are so up in arms about the whole incident. Most of the time no one would care if an owner and driver were going at it or arguing about a contract. But when Cobb stated on national television that she was told to start and park and she refused, the ears perked up and the gloves came off.
If no one liked starting and parking before, they certainly aren’t going to like it now that drivers are starting to fight back. The only thing that can be agreed on is that this needs to resolved soon because it’s making everyone look bad, from both sides fighting to bringing more attention to the unwanted and unpopular starting and parking.