Hometown hero inspiring the next generation of female NASCAR racers

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Kansas Speedway was buzzing with excitement Thursday, as NASCAR race teams set up shop for two races under the lights set to take place this weekend.

The fun starts Friday with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at 7:30 p.m., followed by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

The Truck Series race will feature hometown hero Jennifer Jo Cobb, who grew up in KCK. She is one of just two women who race full-time in NASCAR, alongside Danica Patrick.

“Because of the Kansas Speedway, I have a NASCAR racing career,” Cobb said between practice laps. “Actually it goes back to 25 years to Lakeside Speedway just down the street, and I always had those stars in my eyes of wanting to race in the big leagues of NASCAR.”

When Cobb pulled into the garage during practice laps, the hot pink detailing on her truck was the only hint that there was a woman behind the wheel.

“There’s been so many women before me in NASCAR,” she said, “but there’s only two full-time right now and I think a lot of us for a lot of years, I was only able to do one or two races a year. And now to be able to do it full-time is pretty amazing.”

Cobb is the only female in the sport who is both a team owner and driver. She boasts more than 100 starts in the Truck Series.

No doubt, she sticks out in this male-dominated sport, but Cobb said it’s becoming more common to see women in the driver’s seat and on pit crews.

“My team is behind me 100 percent,” said Lauryn Scott, who changes Cobb’s front tires. “I feel like I show that I know what I’m doing on a daily basis, so it’s pretty inclusive.”

Cobb exudes the type of girl power that’s earning respect from the guys.

“At the end of the day, I mean, they put on their shoes, fire suits and helmets the same way we do, and I race them just like I would race any of the other other guys out here,” said Matt Crafton, who became the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series back-to-back champion by winning titles in 2013 and 2014.

Cobb’s career is also inspiring future generations of female racers.

“It’s really cool to see leaders in the NASCAR industry where they’re girls and then it shows younger females that they can do that,” said Mandy Chick, a 14-year-old girl from De Soto, Kan., who races NASCAR asphalt late models.

“I started racing when I was 6 years old,” Chick said, “and I’m a third generation racer. My 2-year goal is to race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series by the time I’m 16.”

Being a role model is something Cobb takes pride in – as she encourages little girls and boys alike to set their sights on something big.

“I say to anyone at any age, ‘Go for it! You can live your dream!’” she said.

For details on the races, visit this link.