By TJ Buffenbarger
1/27/99: Of all the things I expected to see on Wednesday when I checked my e-mail, the Hughes team disbanding for the 1999 season was not one of them. Now the 1999 All Star Champion is without a ride, and the All Stars loose another top notch racing team for the entire season. I can understand the reasoning behind it, but the timing could not have been worse. In this business I’m really not supposed to let my emotions show in my work, but when it involves people you have become fairly close to and have enjoyed success it sometimes warrants breaking the rules. Being that it is my page, it is time to do so.
Here on the eve of Florida Speedweeks, and Kenny Jacobs is there after taking in the IRL and Silver Crown race at Orlando. I can only imagine the what he must be feeling at this moment. Imagine having your livelihood snatched from you while you were at a convention for that type of business. Unlike a most jobs, most of the prime positions for 1999 have already been taken.
Not only is my mind tonight with Kenny, but the rest of his family as well. I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of getting to know the Jacobs family over the past season, and there isn’t a nicer family involved in racing. We even sat at adjoining tables at the All Star Banquet as I took the family picture for their Christmas card. That night in Indy we talked about the expectations for 1999 and beyond. Those visions now seem so far away.
At the same time, this probably isn’t the first time Jacobs has been put in this position. Granted the timing is probably the worst in his career, but the man is a survivor. From going out of the park at Eldora, to breaking his arm in a motocross accident, to his scary back injury last sprint, Kenny Jacobs is a survivor. It was just five years ago many people had Kenny’s career written off as dead. The past two seasons the Mouse has come into his own. The Hughes team showcased Kenny’s smooth style that helped him win his first championship. I have no doubt that he will find something, and this situation will work out.
So as tonight winds down, I look upon my life thankful for everything I have. I also have a prayer as that the Jacobs family will be blessed with a great car owner that will provide him with the tools it takes to run up front. As much as I love this sport, these are moments I just hate to see happen. In the span of less than a week two of the best Ohio drivers have been let go of their rides before the season. It’s a real shame Butch Schroeder and Kenny Jacobs were not given more time to seek a ride during November and December when more of the good rides were open. Hopefully there will be a hero that comes through for these fine racers.