KANSAS CITY, Kan. — You won’t find the Laurel County, Kentucky, jailer anywhere near his jail on Friday night. He’s racing a truck in Kansas City.
Jamie Mosley is entering his third term as Laurel County’s jailer. But thanks to the success of his electronic cigarette business Crossbar, Mosley is making his first NASCAR start since 2012 and his first start in the Camping World Truck Series since 2009.
As e-cigarettes have boomed in popularity, many companies have slapped their name on trucks and cars in NASCAR’s lower-level series. But unlike those products, Mosley’s e-cigarettes aren’t marketed to the general public. They’re specifically designed for jails to sell to inmates in their commissaries and Mosley’s company has contracts with county jails in 33 states and a deal with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
“We started this company in December of 2012 with $8,000 and we’ll do $3.5 million in sales this year,” Mosley told Yahoo Sports.
A former state police officer who moonlighted as a NASCAR driver in the first decade of the 2000s, Mosley, 48, ran for and was elected jailer of the 60,000-person county south of Lexington in 2010. His business venture was hatched via a suggestion from one of his inmates since Kentucky’s correctional facilities are tobacco-free.
“When I became jailer eight years ago we had been by statute tobacco free for a number of years,” Mosley said. “There had been a period of time where the commissaries in the jail could actually sell tobacco products. So we had a tobacco contraband problem and we were also trying to find a way to fund some re-entry programs that we didn’t have money in the budget to actually fund.”
The inmate noted that he and others could fulfill their nicotine cravings from electronic cigarettes while also staying clear of the tobacco regulations. Mosley liked the idea, so he purchased some electronic cigarettes to do a test run of sales at the jail.
Something positive happened. But there was also a big downside as well.
“And immediately the fights went down, morale improved among the inmates and we were generating the revenue to do and fund the vocational and educational type programs that we wanted to do,” Mosley said. “But after a couple of weeks of that we were doing cell searches one day and we found where they were making shanks out of them.”
“And really I should have checked the product much closer before we started selling it but after examining it I found out half the casing was made out of metal. And the other half was plastic so they would hammer the metal down and make a razor and use the plastic for the handle.”
So Mosley started brainstorming. Six months later, he had a product made out of flexible plastic so it couldn’t be cut and broken. And as the device has evolved and expanded to other facilities, the company has added tamper tape to each product as well as a serial number, which ensures the device an inmate purchased is the one he or she turns back in to get a new one.
The cigarettes, which have the nicotine equivalent of two packs of tobacco cigarettes, aren’t rechargeable or reloadable and have an ignition shutoff to prevent it from being utilized as a firestarter.
“The fact that I understand it from the perspective of an administrator that’s living with inmates every day, that’s really been the key to our success,” Mosley said.
Mosley’s products are available at his own jail, but he said inmates purchase them directly through the distributor and bypass his company.
Mosley made his NASCAR debut in 2003 when he attempted 11 races for Jay Robinson Racing in the Xfinity Series. He made six starts from 2004-2012 for Robinson and other owners and has spent the last six years focusing on his role at the jail and his business while racing sporadically. But the itch to race in NASCAR still needed a scratch.
“I’m not very good at golf,” Mosley cracked. “Honestly, this is a sport that whether you’re here or whether you’re not you’re always thinking about it. You never lose that desire to drive.”
Enter his deal with Beaver Motorsports for Friday night’s race, made possible through the connections he forged in his earlier stint in racing. Mosley knows won’t be anywhere near the front of the field on Friday night or contending for the lead in his first race in six years for an underfunded team.
He’s keeping his goals realistic with the idea of competing in a few more races in the near future — races made possible because of the niche his product has filled.
“An astonishing night for us would be a top 20,” Mosley said. “Very low-budget team. Very limited resources but you know I hope we can run all the laps, get through with no issues and really have something to build on going forward.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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