It started with an e-mail.
At first, NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Jennifer Jo Cobb thought the note was one of those scam-artist come-ons promising millions from a long-lost foreign bank account.
But she did some checking, and the invitation to serve as a United States “ambassador” to another country turned out to be real.
Cobb has already been to Georgia—not the state known for its peaches, but the country south of Russia. This year, she’ll take her gift of gab on three separate trips to Russia itself, first to Moscow and surrounding cities after the Truck race at Charlotte, then later to St. Petersburg in July and finally back to Moscow in September—all during breaks in her racing schedule.
“They want me to come talk about my racing career,” Cobb said on Friday at Kansas Speedway. “They want me to come talk about overcoming obstacles. They want me to come talk about science, technology, engineering, math, and how it relates to what I do.
“I’m not a natural STEM person. In school I did not excel in those areas. I excelled in talking and writing and socializing. But I’ve had to learn to figure out things like that, because I work on my own race cars, and I want them to go faster.”
Cobb will use a translator when she gives her talks in Russia, but she has been preparing for the trip by learning a few basic Russian phrases and reading spy novels.
“I’m a little scared,” she acknowledged. “I’m reading stupid Russian spy books right now to try to just get a feel for culture, and I need to stop. It’s scaring me.”
In reality, Cobb expects her trips to Russia to be as fascinating and rewarding as her trip to Georgia was.
“It’s amazing as an American to go to other countries and get that perspective,” she said. “I just think everyone who—I’m just going to say it—bitches and moans and complains, needs to go to another country that struggles and see how lucky we are to be American, to be born here.”