CNN is taking a deep look into athletic ability with its Extreme Living Series under the direction of chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
The athletes of the world certainly take body and mind to extremes in a variety of competitive sports. Some games and races are more dangerous than others, but if an activity attracts spectators it’s likely because of intensity, difficulty and danger.
A football field is not an immense piece of turf at only 100 yards long and 160 feet wide, but set the opposing skills of 11 speedy players against equal power of 11 more players and that field shrinks to the point where every square yard is crucial. Every hit is potentially harmful.
Driving a stock car at 200 mph pushes a body to a fast edge even in practice, but add 43 more cars with determined racers behind steering wheels on the same track and the excitement gets ramped up. Fans show up for the action.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently interviewed NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, Jennifer Jo Cobb, to get her thoughts on how racing cars is measured as extreme living.
Gupta was intrigued by the influence of Cobb’s spirituality and how she uses that to overcome and asked what he and viewers could learn from her.
“To bring a biblical perspective to it, there is a saying that if God brings you to it, he will bring you through this,” Cobb said. “I said to my father one time. Look back at you entire life and all of the things that you have feared and none of them have overcome you. If you take a look back at your life—how fear does not serve you and how that overcoming those fears does serve you.”
Gupta sought an explanation of the scary part of racing cars.
“I’m scared of failure,” Cobb said. “I’m scared of ruining my truck and not being able to race the next week. I have enormous faith when it comes to fear. “
Gupta mentioned that it was a delight to talk to Cobb, but got an unexpected answer when he described a terrible crash she endured and said, “I’m sure that was scary for you.”
“I just have to say there was no fear in that wreck at all,” Cobb said. “The weird thing about being a race car driver is that you go through those things and it’s very safe in NASCAR. I’m very grateful for that.”
Gupta responded, “You were more worried about the car afterward?”
“Exactly,” Cobb said.
Gupta had researched Cobb’s past and was curious about her drive.
“Racing is for people who are usually older and male,” Gupta said. “From dance lessons to racing cars, what compels you to do it?
“I think every child has a big dream,” Cobb said. “At three-years old my mom took me to dance classes and at three years old my dad started racing cars. Dance was wonderful. It was a great purpose for my life, but I wasn’t going to grow up and be a ballerina.
At eight-years-old in my father’s garage, I said I wanted to be a race car driver. And the reaction was like rolling of the eyes and shaking of the head and like—‘Go along now, go somewhere else. We’re busy working on your dad’s car for Friday night.’”
Racetake.com interviewed Cobb last year during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.
The questioning started with the knowledge that her race car doesn’t know she is female.
“We’re race car drivers,” Cobb said. “We’re not female race car drivers. I think before long it’s going to be the norm. It’s good for all of us trying to pioneer and pave the way.”
It was soon apparent that Cobb doesn’t need much urging to talk about racing.
“It’s in my heart,” she said. “It’s just something that I’ve always loved—the competition and overcoming all the challenges. It’s the hardest thing a person can set out to do. You can’t just practice for it. It takes team work. I love the fact that it’s a team effort. It takes so much to persevere. If you just keep going, it’s worth it.”
Recently at the end of the 2010 at the PRI Trade Show in Orlando, Fla. Racetake.com sought Cobb on the floor as she was being measured for a new fire suit. The questioning revealed that much had transpired since February in Daytona.
“This year I skydived with the Golden Knights,” Cobb said. “I jumped off the side of the Stratosphere. It’s been quite a year. I’ve been stranded on a Gilligan’s Island with the SPEED cast. It’s been quite an adventurous year.”
When questioned about jumping off the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, Cobb was candid.
“You can chicken-out on that pretty easy,” she said. “I skydived with the Golden Knights in August or September. I just had the security like you are with the best trained U.S. Army parachuting team in the country. So I had that faith.
“I was up there cussing myself out and Shelley, my marketing assistant, who got me into it. Just start saying no, you don’t have to say yes to every crazy thing. Then I jumped off the building I was just so happy that I did it. What a great feeling. What a cool thing to overcome.”
Cobb looks forward to racing in 2011 even though her team lacks full sponsorship.
“We are definitely looking forward to next year,” Cobb said. “The strength we have is our knowledge, our experience and to know how to improve. Last year we started new, and this is what we’ve got. This year we know what we’ve got.
“We’re diving into the first five races. We’re starting with a really great truck at Daytona and we just keep moving one day at a time on faith.”
Her outlook wouldn’t surprise Gupta.