Derrike Cope Martinsville Preview

COPE LOOKS TO BENEFIT FROM MARTINSVILLE TEST (April 13, 1999) -- An extensive test at Martinsville Speedway two weeks ago has Jimmy Dean Pontiac driver Derrike Cope optimistic heading into Friday's time trials for the Goody's Body Pain ...

COPE LOOKS TO BENEFIT FROM MARTINSVILLE TEST

(April 13, 1999) -- An extensive test at Martinsville Speedway two weeks ago has Jimmy Dean Pontiac driver Derrike Cope optimistic heading into Friday's time trials for the Goody's Body Pain 500.

Cope, under the watchful eye of crew chief Dan Glauz, shook down the Jimmy Dean Pontiac and said the knowledge learned from the test should prove beneficial in qualifying.

"We were able to try things with the car to see what would work and what wouldn't," Cope said. "There was definitely a positive outcome. T&L brought a motor up there to do some manifold testing and look at the carburetors. We got to test both our motor and their motor to see which had a better feel. We also got more time to look at the data. I feel we can make better decisions thanks to that test. The practice should be beneficial because I only raced there once last year, due to the fact I had to sit out one race with broken ribs."

The picturesque .526-mile short track has undergone a major facelift. Spaces have been added to the frontstretch pit road, giving pit stalls to all 43 teams. No longer will some teams be put at a disadvantage by having to utilize backstretch pits. Cope welcomes the changes, but has some concerns with the new layout.

"It's my opinion it may tear up a bunch of race cars," Cope said. "The only way you can get in or out of pit road is on the back straightaway. There is basically one way in, in turn three, and it comes around just like North Wilkesboro did. You come in off turn one and go halfway around the track and start pitting. Then you will come all the way down pit row and halfway around turn one and then exit at turn two.

"Guys often get spun around on turn four at Martinsville. Before, you could run up on a curve and get to an open area. Well now, that curb is four or five feet from the pit row wall. I think you may see cars come off four, get spun around, and crash into the wall along the entrance to pit road. It's something we'll have to be careful to avoid."

Unlike most of his competitors, Cope didn't get a lot of short track experience cutting his racing teeth on the West Coast. Despite that, Cope still enjoys NASCAR's pilgrimages to the sport's "bull rings."

"Short tracks are a nice change," Cope said. "I understand the demand for different styles of driving. I do enjoy it. Martinsville is one of the better places, but it is different than most of your small tracks. It is a quick, fast, aggressive place without a lot of room. It is a real battle at Martinsville. It is like a jousting match. You have guys dueling with each other, but without the lances and in cars instead of horses."

Short track races often result in caution-filled events resulting in several mangled machines. Each driver tries to avoid trouble, but at times roughhousing is essential in order to pass on the narrow Martinsville track. Racing too hard will burn out the brakes in the corners.

"Sometimes it seems the best way around Martinsville is finesse," Cope said. "There have been times when I can drive the car faster with softer springs by driving it harder, while using more brake. But sometimes that doesn't work so you have to change it up. It is always a different scenario."

If he can find the right rhythm, Cope is hoping to make some sweet music in the Jimmy Dean Pontiac at Martinsville.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Derrike Cope