FOUR EYES HELP COPE ON SUNDAYS (June 15, 1999) -- He doesn't wear glasses, but Jimmy Dean Pontiac driver Derrike Cope nonetheless has four eyes helping him through the rush hours of a NASCAR Winston Cup race. Not only does Cope have his own...
FOUR EYES HELP COPE ON SUNDAYS
(June 15, 1999) -- He doesn't wear glasses, but Jimmy Dean Pontiac driver Derrike Cope nonetheless has four eyes helping him through the rush hours of a NASCAR Winston Cup race.
Not only does Cope have his own two eyes, he has the benefit of the close scrutiny of spotter Rick Cordell helping him through any traffic jams on weekends.
A spotter for 10 years, Cordell is in his first season serving as Cope's guide. Much like an air traffic controller, Cordell helps his driver in the cockpit steer his way home. Cordell rates getting a driver's trust as the most difficult element of his job.
"If you are with somebody that doesn't trust you and you say 'left' they'll go right," Cordell said. "It takes a while to build that confidence up to a point that they trust you. It takes four or five races, providing I'm not making any mistakes."
The transition with Cope has gone smoothly for Cordell.
"I am not very loud," Cordell said. "My voice tone doesn't change much during the race, regardless of a wreck. I think that's an important quality to have in a spotter. You can't get upset or else the driver will. With Derrike, I have to talk a little louder because he's not used to somebody's voice on the same level the whole day long. But he seems to have adapted. Trust me, if Derrike had a problem with me he'd let me know."
Cordell has served as a spotter for Darrell Waltrip and Kyle Petty. He spots for Casey Atwood at companion Busch Series events. Each driver has different needs from his spotter.
"I like to stay calm and quiet on the radio, but I am used to yelling," Cordell said. "D.W. will sometimes yell at everybody, so I'd find myself speaking in the same tone at times. I really enjoyed my time with him. I was with D.W. when he won the Daytona 500. It was memorable because we won on both days, Saturday in the Busch race and then Sunday in the Daytona 500."
Cordell, 49, served as a transport driver for Waltrip for 14 years before leaving him last year. Hauling freight is what got Cordell into the racing business.
"I was hauling produce to California," Cordell said. "I had my own truck. I was going through New Jersey one time and I ran across Robert Gee (famed car builder). They were going to Dover the following week. We started talking on the CB, and we pulled over for a cup of coffee. He invited me to Dover for the race. That was 23 years ago and I've been hooked ever since."
Perched high atop the frontstretch grandstands at most races, Cordell is on his feet throughout the course of the three-to-four hour races.
"The job is very stressful," Cordell said. "You're there for four hours sometimes on Sunday and you don't get a break. It's not like a tire changer or a gas man where they can take a break after a pit stop. They can have a cigarette, drink a Coke and shoot the bull. A spotter is up there the whole race, through the cautions, wrecks, anything. You can't walk off."
Not that Cordell is about to.