COPE CAN TAME TOUGH DARLINGTON (March 16, 1999) -- Buddy Parrott fondly referred to Derrike Cope as a "little Tazmanian Devil" when he served as the 1990 Daytona 500 winner's crew chief. Last year at Darlington Raceway, Chuck Rider...
COPE CAN TAME TOUGH DARLINGTON
(March 16, 1999) -- Buddy Parrott fondly referred to Derrike Cope as a "little Tazmanian Devil" when he served as the 1990 Daytona 500 winner's crew chief. Last year at Darlington Raceway, Chuck Rider found out firsthand what an appropriate nickname that is for Cope. Cope's gritty performance in the TranSouth Financial 400 is a permanent source of inspiration for the Bryan Racing team -- and a primary reason why Rider believes his team can right its course four races into the NASCAR Winston Cup season when the circuit returns to Darlington this weekend.
Cope entered last year's spring race at Darlington with two broken ribs, sustained in a crash two weeks prior in a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In obvious pain each time he crawled into the car, Cope gritted it out through the weekend. He qualified for the race and was running well until he suffered a blown engine 63 laps from the finish.
Rider has never doubted Cope's resolve and fortitude since.
"The team just wanted to pick him up on a pedestal and carry him around," Rider said. "It was amazing and so inspiring. Derrike is so determined in everything he does. It really showed last year at Darlington and it was evident throughout much of the season when he drove hurt. You can't ask for anything more out of a driver."
Cope enters Sunday's TranSouth Financial 400 under similar circumstances. He took two hard hits in separate crashes during last weekend's NASCAR races. He's sore, but Cope sustained no injuries.
Cope's situation will be closely documented on Sunday courtesy of an in-car camera. It will mark the third consecutive race in which Cope's Pontiac has carried an in-car camera. It will mark the second time the Bryan Pontiac has carried one. Bryan is one of four Sara Lee companies sharing a unique rotating sponsorship of the Bahari' Racing team. The others are Jimmy Dean, State Fair and Rudy's Farm.
Darlington is known as NASCAR's toughest superspeedway, but Cope likes the 1.366-mile challenge. He finished fourth in the 1991 Southern 500.
"I like Darlington," Cope said. "I like challenges and Darlington is one of the circuit's biggest. It often takes a lucky break to win a Winston Cup race. At Darlington, you usually need two or three."
Rider, always the optimist, believes Cope can get the job done at Darlington.
"He's determined when he's in that seat, regardless of the situation," Rider said. "He's always determined to take that car to the front. Derrike is just a super human being."
Last year at Darlington, Cope looked like a NASCAR version of Superman. A similar performance this year could have lots of eyes on the Bryan Pontiac come Sunday.