COPE LOOKS TO SHINE UNDER THE LIGHTS OF PEPSI 400 (June 29, 1999) -- The twinkle in Bryan Pontiac driver Derrike Cope's eyes this Saturday night will not be from the bright lights in the Pepsi 400 held at the Daytona International Speedway,...
COPE LOOKS TO SHINE UNDER THE LIGHTS OF PEPSI 400
(June 29, 1999) -- The twinkle in Bryan Pontiac driver Derrike Cope's eyes this Saturday night will not be from the bright lights in the Pepsi 400 held at the Daytona International Speedway, but from the excitement of returning to the site of his biggest NASCAR Winston Cup victory.
Every time Cope speaks about NASCAR's most celebrated race, he can't help reminiscing on his 1990 Daytona 500 championship. "What happens after Daytona is absolutely magical," Cope said. "When you win the race and you walk around victory lane, then you are whisked away to talk to the media, and then you go up and toast champagne... it's a wonderful, wonderful happening. There is nothing else like it. You win that race and it elevates your notoriety. You're thrust into doing a lot more things. People look at you in a different light. Your doing media tours across the country. Instant recognition. That stays with you."
Even when things go wrong at Daytona, Cope seems to rise to the occasion. At this year's first Daytona 500, Cope had a tire go down and nearly hit the wall on lap 43. But he masterfully saved his Grand Prix and was able to pit for fresh rubber. Cope finished the race battling the leaders just one lap down before settling for an 18-place finish.
"Even though we cut a tire early in the race, we were pretty good," Cope said. "We marched right back and showed everyone we could run up there. I was hoping to get the lap back and I just didn't have quite enough to get it done."
While Cope has had a lot of success at Daytona, he would prefer to race under the Florida sun than the lights of the Pepsi 400.
"I like Daytona, I always have, but I don't like racing there as much under the lights," Cope said. "It's OK, but it's a little dark and dingy on the back straightaway which I don't like. But anytime I come back to Daytona, I typically enjoy it."
Cope is not the only person bothered by the night races at Daytona. Spotter Rick Cordell says the lights affect his job as well.
"The hardest races to spot are at Daytona and Talladega at night," Cordell said. "The length of the track makes it hard to see on the backstretch. The colors seem to run together on the cars. When they are coming down on the back stretch, it is just a blur of colors."
But with all the distractions that night racing can bring, Cope looks forward to returning to the site of his greatest race. This time the driver of the Bryan Pontiac hopes that the lights blinding his vision at Daytona will be the ones from the photographer's light bulbs in victory lane.