DERRIKE COPE (No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Cope returns to action for the first time since an accident at Richmond on Sept. 7. The 1990 Daytona 500 winner says he's still a little sore, but plans to go the distance in Sunday's...
DERRIKE COPE (No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Cope returns to action for the first time since an accident at Richmond on Sept. 7. The 1990 Daytona 500 winner says he's still a little sore, but plans to go the distance in Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"I feel pretty good. After not running for so long, I'm still a little sore in my scapula area. You can feel it a little bit. It's a little tender. I broke my left leg, ACL, broken wrist, other than that I'm fine. I'm been through some peril and pain before, so I'm used to it. As much as I enjoy the people I work with broadcasting and the opportunity, I'd much rather be in the race car every week. I'm trying to get my self in position to do it again and race another five years or so and see how I feel. I feel good and strong and feel like I'm still very productive. I'm 43. I'm younger than a lot of these guys out here. The way I look at it, it's my wife and I and I don't have to worry about kids. I still love to drive the race car. The passion is still there, and I'm going to find a way back and enjoy it for five or 10 more years. I bounce back quickly. I need to get in a car. You can't get better unless you're in the right climate all the time.
"The throttle stuck at Richmond, and I hit the wall and broke myself up pretty good. Those things happen. You've just got to put it behind you. It's an addiction. You sit home, and you can't replace the feeling you get when you sit in that car. It's something that's every part of your being. I've done it for 20 something years. You can't replace it. There's nothing else you can do to physically replace what this is about. It's tough to live without this. It's so difficult to put it down. Look at guys like Darrell. Guys that want to keep doing it in some shape or form. It's hard to put down.
"We haven't got the car like we need it yet. We're still a little on the tight side. We're still on the learning curve. It's difficult when you get an influx of different drivers and different people coming in and out. It takes time to get a feel for the car. You only get a few minutes for practice for qualifying and then you get a few more minutes of practice on Saturday. You need to pit that car week in and week out. We were productive when I first stepped in the car for a couple of races and then I got hurt. We're trying to pick up where we left off and go about the last part of the year.
"I'm going to test Phoenix on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then come back and probably run a Busch race at Rockingham. Then I'm going to run both races at Phoenix and Homestead.
"A lot of guys are trying to find rides and get in this car. We've got quality equipment and top-notch engines from Ernie Elliott. You've got to put somebody in the race car, and I don't care who it is, somebody has got to stay in the car and given an opportunity to grow with the team and get that rapport with everybody. I'd like to think I'm the man for it, but that has to come from upper management. It would depend on how the driver gets along with the people and how he could bring along the team itself.
"At this point, our pit crew has been using five on and five off. That's an area they'll have to address. The car has run well, and then the pit stops were our demise. The car was very fast at Bristol and the we got laps down on the pit stops. Every race team that runs well can't have a problem on pit road. If so, they'll be in the back and it's hard to pass these days at most tracks. All these elements have to be worked on and addressed.
"I'm going to go all the way tomorrow. I don't think we're going to have anybody standing by. I've never gotten out of a car yet, and I don't plan on it now. I'm a little tender, so I'm going to go ahead and tape up and make sure I don't have any problems. Right now, I have no intentions of getting out.
"I don't ever think about winning the Daytona 500. That's in the past. Things change. You have to stay progressive and think about the future. I don't dwell on the past. That's when wrecks happen, I don't worry about it. You can't change it. I try not to reflect on that. I try to think about today and tomorrow. You have to learn from your mistakes and how you deal with people and situations. At times when you get low and people beat up on you, you have to fall back and use that to keep your frame of mind productive. So many race car drivers are insecure.
"Look at guys like Jamie McMurray. They get in the right situation and you see what can happen.
"The Dodge is a good race car. It has good tendencies. I think there are some situations where balance can be an issue. Power wise, it runs very well. It has a different feel from a Ford or Chevrolet. Mid range, it's very, very good. It's a different animal, but I like the feel of it. I think there's some opportunities where we could have some very good runs with the Dodge. The key here is not to overdrive the corner, but to be in the throttle all the way through the corner and have the car on the bottom. We're a little tight in the middle. We're making a couple of big changes to see if we can get it better."