Bob Jenkins had a choice to make on Sunday. He could go to Disney World with his family, or stay in Daytona Beach for the Daytona 500.
He chose his family over his race team and, as a result, was not at Daytona International Speedway when his Front Row Motorsports team won the Daytona 500 with driver Michael McDowell.
Bob Jenkins started the day at the race track, where he had three cars in the Daytona 500, but chose to return home with his family when the race was delayed by rain for more than six hours. His family had taken his one-year-old granddaughter to Disney World, and Bob Jenkins met them at the airport during the long rain delay.
“I was kind of torn,” Bob Jenkins said. “Do I stay for the race or do I fly them home? And so we came home and I was able to catch almost all of the race, at least the last 60 laps I watched on TV.”
Bob Jenkins has been the owner of Front Row Motorsports since 2005, but his team has struggled with a lack of funding and technical support. Front Row has won just two races in 1081 NASCAR Cup Series starts — David Ragan’s 2013 win at Talladega, and Chris Buescher’s 2016 win at Pocono.
The team’s third-ever victory, in NASCAR’s biggest race, was a big deal for the mid-pack team, but Bob Jenkins, its loyal team owner, was not there to celebrate with them when McDowell scored his first career victory.
“I got to see the win with my wife. I probably couldn’t imagine a better way to do it,” Bob Jenkins said. “I hated that I wasn’t there because I was there all weekend, but I had to miss it and so that’s just part of what we’re dealing with with COVID and everything else. I’d have loved to have been on the pit box with (crew chief) Drew (Blickensderfer) to watch that final lap.”
Bob Jenkins has built fast cars for races at Daytona
While Front Row struggles at most tracks, it has been competitive over the years at big, fast superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega. It has three top 5 and six top 10 finishes at Daytona, and four top 5 and 13 top 10 finishes at Talladega.
Michael McDowell has also been competitive at Daytona over the years, scoring three top 5 and six top 10s on NASCAR’s most famous track. He and his team owner both dreamed of winning NASCAR’s biggest race.
Bob Jenkins called watching McDowell win the race in his No. 34 car “surreal.”
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve coveted that Harley Earl trophy since I started in this sport,” Bob Jenkins said. “So just to see Michael and the emotion. He’s just a great guy. He and Drew have such good chemistry.”
The improbable win will be a huge boost for the underfunded team and put McDowell in position to make the NASCAR playoffs for the first time. While the Daytona 500 win is a huge upset, Bob Jenkins is not surprised.
“I know the average fan is surprised when we win a race, but it never surprises me,” he said. “It’s taken a long time to get our third win and our first Daytona 500 win, but people don’t realize this is our third top-five in the Daytona 500 and I just wanted to get that. It’s a lifetime goal. Obviously, you want to win championships, but you’ve got to win races first and I can’t imagine one bigger than the Daytona 500.”