Cope As Fast As He Wants

Cope as fast as he wants to be in Gatorade Twin 125 By John Crowley NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 1998) The only time Derrike Cope didn't look fast on Thursday was when he didn't want to. Which wasn't often, as his sixth-place ...

Cope as fast as he wants to be in Gatorade Twin 125 By John Crowley NASCAR Online

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 1998)

The only time Derrike Cope didn't look fast on Thursday was when he didn't want to. Which wasn't often, as his sixth-place finish in the first Gatorade Twin 125-Mile Qualifying Races will attest.

It's been that way since Cope and Bahari Racing unloaded the Gumout Pontiac here last week. In fact, it's been that way since January, when pre-season testing put the team on sound footing.

The 1990 Daytona 500 champion hasn't had many opportunities to shine here since that day nearly eight years ago - when all the planets, as well as a piece of metal that punctured one of Dale Earnhardt's tires - were aligned correctly. But the modest native of Spanaway, Washington, is eyeing the refurbished Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway, thinking how he might look in it. Scoff if you want. Then check the numbers.

Pontiacs have taken to the superspeedway like seagulls to the sparkling infield waters of Lake Lloyd; witness Bobby Labonte's Bud Pole Award on Saturday. Cope qualified seventh fastest (190.617 mph), ahead of such names as Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett. And Thursday he put the distinctive Grand Prix into the lead draft and stayed there, running in a fashion that could arguably be called conservative.

"I was trying to be real careful," Cope said. "We have a real shot in the 500 and this is a really good Pontiac. I didn't want to hurt it. Every time I got in a compromising position, I tried to just pull my horns in. That's what happened at the end."

Cope ran as high as third early. He never fell out of the top five until just after the final caution on lap 42, when the feinting and jabbing of the fighters in front convinced him that discretion was the better part of valor.

"At the end, I just checked up on the throttle, because I didn't want to take a chance," he said. "I ended up losing a couple of spots because of it."

Two hundred and thirty-six starts separate Cope from what remains his career-defining moment. But when he looks to Sunday, that figure doesn't seem so imposing. And the number 500, as in miles and Daytona?

"All in all, I know what we've got and I know what we've got to work on," Cope said. "Two spots right now either way or the other right now really isn't going to make a difference. I'm looking for a couple of things I need and if we can find it, we can be OK."

Courtesy of NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Derrike Cope , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte