(Aug. 10, 1999) -- Attention race fans -- that just may be Derrike Cope you see this upcoming weekend dining in a local restaurant near the famed Watkins Glen, N.Y., road course. That's because it's an enthusiastic Cope that heads to Sunday's ...
(Aug. 10, 1999) -- Attention race fans -- that just may be Derrike Cope you see this upcoming weekend dining in a local restaurant near the famed Watkins Glen, N.Y., road course.
That's because it's an enthusiastic Cope that heads to Sunday's Frontier at the Glen race. In the midst of a trying NASCAR Winston Cup season, the Jimmy Dean Pontiac driver likes the makings of his revamped team.
Two weeks ago, the Bahari' Racing team was sold to Boston businessman Jack Birmingham. He hired a new crew chief, Barry Dodson, and made numerous personnel changes. The new combination made the field for last Saturday's Brickyard 400, restoring confidence to driver and team.
"Before the sale of our team, I didn't even have the desire to go out to dinner after practice or the race, even if we made the race," Cope said. "I just didn't feel like I wanted to go out because I would have to talk about what was going on or why we were having problems. I really saw no end in sight. The team wasn't making the choices that needed to be made. Now, I kid Barry and tell him that I'm going to take a shower and then go out and have dinner by myself. Now I can show my face and that is how good I feel. It feels like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders. We have our work cut out for us, but I feel like we are on the mend."
Cope's new found enthusiasm is a direct result of working with Dodson, who guided Rusty Wallace to the 1989 Winston Cup championship. Cope believes that Dodson's leadership skills can turn Bahari'-Eel River Racing into a competitive force.
"His decisiveness about his choices and the way he conducts himself have been positive for our team," Cope said. "You can see by the way he walks at the track that he has a look of self-assurance. He knows he belongs here. He knows what he needs. He was monitoring the weather at Indy and the track temperature every ten minutes. He was making all kinds of decisions based on experience and he was able to correlate all of that and come out with a very decisive choice whether to stand or not to stand before second round qualifying. The decision to stand wasn't made on a guess, but on actual calculations that he had taken. That's what it takes, somebody that has experience to draw from and the confidence to make the decision."
As well as a new outlook on the Winston Cup season, the Jimmy Dean team will take a new road racing car to this week's race.
"It's a car that Steve Leavitt built from the ground up," Cope said. "Barry and the guys have been looking at it. It should be ready for Watkins Glen, which is a lot faster road course than Sears Point. At Watkins Glen, you need to carry more speed and you can drive the car very hard there. Sears Point has a lot of elevation changes. You have to pitch the car a little more and you go through some slow speed stuff. We've hired T&L Motors to run our motor program. They will make a big difference for us this week. With that motor, the combination of T&L and Barry's experience and leadership, we feel confident about going to Watkins Glen."
Now the only question mark in Cope's head is where he's going to make dinner reservations this weekend.