TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 21, 1998) After a one-race hiatus from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series to heal his two broken ribs, driver Derrike Cope will make his return to the seat of the No. 30 Gumout Pontiac Friday when Bud Pole...
TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 21, 1998)
After a one-race hiatus from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series to heal his two broken ribs, driver Derrike Cope will make his return to the seat of the No. 30 Gumout Pontiac Friday when Bud Pole Qualifying begins at Talladega Superspeedway for Sunday's DieHard 500.
Cope sat out Monday's Goody's Headache Powder 500 at Martinsville Speedway -- and all its practice and qualifying -- to rest his ribs, which were broken in an accident on March 9 during the PRIMESTAR 500 and then aggravated after an April 3 crash in Bud Pole Qualifying for the Texas 500. He watched the Martinsville race on TV at his home in Cornelius, N.C., fidgeting as substitute driver Jeff Green fought his way to a respectable 17th-place finish.
"I was right there with him trying not to get lapped and trying to get the cautions to fall right for us," Cope said. "It was still difficult. You hate not to be there. It was the best thing for me. I'm glad that weekend is over and we're only a couple of days away from going to Talladega.
"I hate to be on the sidelines. It was a great effort put in by the whole crew, and obviously, Jeff Green. They had a good finish and did exactly what we needed to have happen, get in the race and run productively and put points on the board. I was very pleased."
Cope and Bahari' Racing owner Chuck Rider decided it would be best for Cope to sit out the race at Martinsville and have a full three weeks to recuperate.
"I feel pretty good," Cope said. "A lot of the pain has left. I still have some soreness in my ribs, but that's going to be there for awhile. There's still a little stiffness in my neck but therapy has taken a lot of that out. I feel like by the time Thursday rolls around I'm going to be in pretty good shape.
"I'm just going to have to be careful with the ribs, that's the only thing. I feel like I can drive the car hard. My only worry is qualifying the car with the harsh shocks. Other than that, I feel good."
Cope said sitting out Talladega would have been difficult. In the season's only other restrictor plate race to date, Cope ran as high as second in the season-opening Daytona 500 before getting crashed in a freak incident on pit road.
"My dad called last night and asked if I was maybe going to think about sitting out Talladega, and I said, 'Ain't no way. I'm going to be there,'" Cope said. "I've done all the sitting around I can do. I haven't done anything strenuous other than exercise to get some mobility, and some continuing therapy.
"Really, I've got to get back in the race car. We've got a good chance to win the race at Talladega. I felt like we were one of the cars to beat at Daytona. I feel like Talladega can be much the same."
Cope is at his best at superspeedways, where both of his NASCAR Winston Cup victories have come. He'll compete in the same Pontiac that ran so well at Daytona. And his absence has lit an internal fire that can only be doused by a successful run at Talladega.
"I think that any time I go to one of the speedways I definitely have a chance of winning that race," Cope said. "If they count us out then they'll be making a big mistake."
Source: NASCAR Online