(June 21, 1999) -- State Fair Brand Corn Dogs Pontiac driver Derrike Cope went back to school to prepare for one of the most unique stock car races on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, Sunday's Save Mart/Kragen 350 held at Sears Point...
(June 21, 1999) -- State Fair Brand Corn Dogs Pontiac driver Derrike Cope went back to school to prepare for one of the most unique stock car races on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, Sunday's Save Mart/Kragen 350 held at Sears Point Raceway.
Cope attended the Jim Russell Driving School at the 1.949-mile road course on April 29 prior to last month's race at California Speedway. Cope wanted to touch up on his road racing skills. With the exception of Watkins Glen, Sears Point is the only Winston Cup track where drivers must be prepared for right turns as well as the standard left ones.
"We definitely learned a lot that day, even though we were in different styles of race cars," Cope said. "We were in open-wheel cars, the Barber-Dodge Series cars. The reason we went out there was basically to get accustomed to the race track and the changes they made there. We were trying to see if some road racing experts could find some flaws in our approach to road racing and try to help me pick better apexes and make better decisions on the road. I thought I gained some knowledge of things out there and I left with a positive outlook."
While many Winston Cup drivers prefer the traditional oval-shaped race tracks on the circuit, Cope looks forward to the challenge of the twisting roads at Sears Point.
"I enjoy road racing," Cope said. "It's fun. It's a change from what we normally do. You get to abuse the car a little more, you get to pitch the car a little more and you get to shift gears a little more, all that is enjoyable about racing. At this track, you must be smooth and sometimes you have a tendency to overdrive the cars. It is hard work and you've really got to have a good race car at Sears Point."
Not only will he have to deal with an unorthodox raceway that bends in any direction, but Cope will run on an altered course this weekend.
"When we were down there, we could see track officials working on the track," Cope said. "At the time, the only changes were just along the long far end where they moved the barrels to mark the boundaries of the track. They didn't really know what they were going to do when we were out there. They were trying to get a sense of better apexes and things. I heard that they moved the barrels in, but we will not see the final changes until we go back out there. They just weren't finished before we left."
Cope's best finish at Sears Point was in 1995 when the San Diego, Calif., native finished 12th.
State Fair Brand Corn Dogs is one of four rotating sponsors on Cope's car. The others are Jimmy Dean, Bryan and Rudy's Farm.