It almost didn't seem real. Washington, Ill., native Cameron Cobb, pit crew member for NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth, was waiting for NASCAR officials to make a decision on calling the Daytona 500 as rain fell last Sunday evening.
It almost didn't seem real.
Washington, Ill., native Cameron Cobb, pit crew member for NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth, was waiting for NASCAR officials to make a decision on calling the Daytona 500 as rain fell last Sunday evening.
Kenseth took the lead one lap before rain began to fall and the cars had been called to pit road to wait for the race to be declared over or for a restart.
"Everybody was just kind of fingers crossed, nail biting, doing rain dances," said Cobb on Saturday. "Then it was just kind of surreal. Our engineer was jumping up and down on the pit box saying, ‘They called it! They called it!' We all looked at each other and it didn't really sink in that we'd won the 500 for what seemed like an eternity.
"We kind of stared at each other, then started jumping up and down and ran down to see Matt. Then headed to Victory Lane, which was pretty awesome."
The moments in Daytona's historic Victory Lane were very special to Cobb and his team.
"It's been 23 years since (owner Jack) Roush has been trying to win that race and I've been in the business eight years trying to win that race," said Cobb, who has worked for Roush for five years. "I've been with Matt for two (years) and Carl (Edwards) for three years (in what was then the Busch Series) trying to win anything in Daytona and usually we'd just end up bringing home a bunch of wrecked cars."
Kenseth was actually driving his third car in the 500. He had crashed the week earlier in the Bud Shootout car and also wrecked in the qualifying races. But the team had built three new cars for the 500 and was ready for anything.
Television viewers on Sunday may have noticed that after the cars were stopped on pit road, Kenseth stayed in the driver's seat, hoping that when he emerged it would be as Daytona 500 champion.
"He said he wasn't getting out of the car if he had to stay in there four hours," Cobb said. "And then he wouldn't believe the crew chief when he finally told him the race was called. He said, ‘No, really, tell me when it's canceled and I'll come out.' "
The team was allowed to stay in Florida to celebrate on Sunday instead of flying back to Charlotte.
"Then Monday morning we went to Daytona USA when they put the car in the museum, and then we got to go the champion's breakfast with Matt, which was pretty cool," he said. "That was pretty special."
Cobb said he received about 30 text messages and phone calls congratulating him on the team's victory.
He also heard from his mom, Cindy Kennedy.
"My mom was pretty excited," he said. "She was at a loss for words for once in her life. I think she was like me — she didn't know what to say."
Cobb, 33, serves as jackman on Kenseth's pit crew. Normally, the crew arrives Sunday morning to prepare to work that weekend's race. This weekend, since the race is in California, the crew flew in on Saturday afternoon.
During the week, he works on the race cars in the shop, either building new ones or repairing and revamping existing cars to be put back into the rotation.
The 1994 Washington High School graduate will earn bonuses from the team for the Daytona 500 win. He'll also get one of the coveted Daytona 500 championship rings.
Though it's back to business as usual for Kenseth's team this weekend, the memories of last Sunday are still fresh.
"It was a pretty neat deal," said Cobb.
Jane Miller is the Journal Star motorsports columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.