Derrike Cope Hopes to Trun Season Around at Charlotte

(May 25, 1999) -- Jimmy Dean Pontiac driver Derrike Cope hopes to encounter deja vu as he prepares for Sunday's Coca Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte. Cope was the last driver to earn a points-race pole position at the 1.5-mile ...

(May 25, 1999) -- Jimmy Dean Pontiac driver Derrike Cope hopes to encounter deja vu as he prepares for Sunday's Coca Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte.

Cope was the last driver to earn a points-race pole position at the 1.5-mile superspeedway during last October's UAW-GM Quality 500. While he would enjoy sitting on the pole position again, Cope believes a top-20 effort would help turn the Bahari' Racing team's season around.

"At this point, I don't think we'd have to win a pole," Cope said. "Right now, a top-20 qualifying effort would make us feel like we're getting back on track. If we can go to Charlotte and qualify in the top-15 or the top-20, that would be a great motivator. We need that stepping stone."

Cope believes that last year's strong performance at Charlotte was due to a successful test session. After another test three weeks ago at Charlotte, Cope is hopeful of a similar turnaround.

"I think we learned some things at last year's test that really helped us," Cope said. "We did the same thing this year. We just went in there and had a good test and from that point on, we qualified in the top-10 and top-20 every week and the car was much more productive through the rest of last year. That test session took us to the next level."

Over his career, Cope has shown well in Coca-Cola 600. He has 10 top-20 finishes in 15 career starts in NASCAR Winston Cup's longest race, including a personal best ninth-place finish in 1990. Three weeks ago, Cope posted the 12th-fastest speed among nearly 30 GM drivers that tested at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

"We are in the same boat this year as last year," Cope said. "We haven't been to the wind tunnel because we haven't been able to schedule time, so we really haven't pinpointed our needs yet, but our test session went well again. We weren't the fastest by any means, but we had great laps. We were in the hunt, I thought, and I think with an actual qualifying motor coming back and a better lap we could surprise some people and remind them of last year."

Jimmy Dean is one of four Sara Lee companies serving as rotating sponsors on owner Chuck Rider's Pontiac this year. The others are Bryan, State Fair, and Rudy's Farm.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Derrike Cope