By Lee Montgomery
BRISTOL, Tenn. - He said, she said.
That's what I think of the dustup between NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Jennifer Jo Cobb and her car owner, Rick Russell, before Saturday's Scotts EZ Seed 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Or maybe it's much ado over nothing.
Either way, is it really that big of a deal?
Let's recap. Cobb and her Camping World Truck Series crew chief, Steve Kuykendall, joined forces with Russell's 2nd Chance Motorsports team for the first five Nationwide races of 2011. Russell would provide a 2011 Mustang, and Cobb would provide some engines and crew members.
That was the plan, anyway.
Before the start of Saturday's race, though, Cobb said she refused to do a "start-and-park" with the No. 79 Ford and was removed as the driver.
"There were rumblings all week about our team starting and parking," Cobb said, according to hamptonroads.com. "I have made a commitment to my sponsors, my fans and NASCAR that I'm not a start-and-park driver. I'm really serious about this. I have to work hard to prove to people that I'm serious about this. The conversation was never had with me until 10 minutes before the race started that I was to start and park."
Not according to Russell. He said the team had a meeting Friday at the track to talk about this weekend's plan, which was to start and park to try to save the team's lone race car. That car, Russell said, was damaged in a wreck in Las Vegas, and he said he spent around $16,000 of his own money to get it fixed.
"Then this afternoon, the crew chief ... he told me that they were getting together a pit crew and had bought tires," Russell told the website. "I said, ‘For what reason?'' He said, ‘So we can change tires and finish the race without a DNF.'' I said, ‘Who come up with this idea? The plan was, I told you Friday morning we weren't doing that.'
"She waited until five minutes until start time and told her crew chief and her other people that worked for her and they left. I'm sitting on pit road with a car without a driver and made myself look stupid, NASCAR look stupid, the whole bunch of us look stupid.''
Well, that's true. Someone looks stupid.
They all do. And it's a shame.
There's also some issue over an engine for Las Vegas and Bristol, but it's all just too silly for me.
It boils down to a disagreement between a car owner and a driver. How many millions of times have we heard that?
Who do you believe? The driver who refused to start and park? Or the car owner who's trying to survive?
Both are right. And maybe both are wrong.
In the end, maybe it's a good thing it happened. It doesn't sound like Cobb and Russell had much of a relationship, and now it's over. Russell said he'll have another driver in the car next week at Auto Club Speedway. And Cobb said she has car owners who have her back.
Good luck to both of them.