NASCAR President Steve Phelps defended his organization’s decision not to approve Jennifer Jo Cobb to compete in Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, saying that in the opinion of series officials “Jennifer wasn’t ready to race in this race.”
Cobb has 217 career Camping World Truck Series starts, including nine at Talladega, and 31 Xfinity Series starts. Sunday’s event would have marked her Cup debut. She would have been the third female to compete in a Cup race since 1990 and first since Danica Patrick drove in the 2018 Daytona 500.
Phelps spoke to the media Sunday as part of the sanctioning body’s announcement that it is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America as the sport moves toward greater inclusion.
Phelps backed NASCAR’s driver approval process.
“Steve O’Donnell (NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer), Scott Miller (NASCAR senior vice president of competition), Elton Sawyer (NASCAR vice president of officiating and technical inspection), 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 they have their finger on the pulse, and in their opinion, Jennifer wasn’t ready to race in this race.
“With that said, we certainly, to your point, on a day where we’re talking about inclusion, would love to have female drivers racing in our top series. It’s something we very much would be interested in doing.
“We’re trying to diversify our driver core. Women, people of color, those are things that are very important to this sport, but as it relates to Jennifer, the group felt that she was not ready.”
She said she was not aware of the need to apply for Cup approval.
“This is the first I’ve heard of an active driver in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions having to re-apply for approval,” Cobb told Catchfence.com. “I would think that at any time my performance would have been an issue, I would have been removed from the system and | or notified.
“All I am asking is to be evaluated the same way the 40 male drivers competing this Sunday were evaluated in their approval process. There are many examples of drivers that are racing with less experience and less performance(s) than I have shown.”