Food City 500 April 6, 1999 Note: Jimmy Dean Pontiac Grand Prix driver Derrike Cope believes Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most-difficult tracks to navigate on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. He says drivers must drive with both ...
Food City 500 April 6, 1999
Note: Jimmy Dean Pontiac Grand Prix driver Derrike Cope believes Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most-difficult tracks to navigate on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. He says drivers must drive with both patience and aggression to make it through the race.
DERRIKE COPE (No. 30 Jimmy Dean Pontiac Grand Prix): "Everybody comes out bruised at Bristol. It's the highest-banked track we run on and just a little over a half-mile. Bristol is a grab-and-growl type race. You know when you've been hit, let's just put it that way. Most fights that are good battles, everybody comes out with a knot on them somewhere. At Bristol, you definitely come out with an antler or two. Whether you get a knot or an antler, that's just the way it is. Darrell Waltrip's been really good there. He always come out of there with good finishes and not having the car torn up. He's just smart. Mark Martin will pull over and let people go and race when he can and not get torn up. It's a tough place to do that, but you've got to do it sometimes."
HOW DO YOU GET AROUND BRISTOL? "You've got to be able to put a bumper to somebody and be smart about that, get them out of your way if they're being obstinate. Yet, if somebody's all over you and you're not as fast as them, you've got to find a way to let them get by on the outside so you don't get hung out, and still be fast enough to pull away from certain people. You try to keep yourself away from getting in a tussle. If you can do that, run productively enough to do that, and then give up to the guys that are faster than you, you'll end up having a good day. It's one of those deals where you have to be really smart."
WHAT'S IT LIKE DRIVING AROUND BRISTOL? "Bristol is one of those places where you're in the throttle. You drive the car off into the corner and before the car even tells you which direction it's going in you go back to the throttle knowing the car is going to turn and you're going to have to steer it. A lot of it is really just a manipulation of the car. In the race it's a situation where you're in traffic all the time, constantly on top of the wheel and you really have to battle really hard. Things happen quickly there. If something happens in front of you, you're very fortunate, very lucky to get through it."
IS A DRIVER ALWAYS ON EDGE AT BRISTOL, LOOKING FOR TROUBLE? "You really have to stay on top of things. You can't get lulled into just driving the car. You have to be looking far ahead and your foot's always right on the edge of the brake. You're always waiting for something to happen. You anticipate something happening because in order to get by people there you really have to put a bumper to people. Typically, someone is putting it to you at the same time. It's really a lot of rooting and grinding going on. No one has a lot of regard for you."
HOW LOUD IS IT AT BRISTOL? "The noise is deafening at Bristol. Your ears ring all the next day. You cannot hear great after that race, especially that night. You have a ringing in your ear when you go to bed. It's difficult. You catch yourself yelling. You can't hear yourself think. You can't hear your crew hardly and you're going, 'What? I didn't hear that.' It gets ugly. That's just an issue you have to deal with there because the grandstands are so far up and it keeps all the noise and all the air out of that place."
DO YOU LIKE RACING AT BRISTOL? "I talk to a few drivers like John Andretti and he hates the place. It's just one of those deals where all you can do is go there and drive the best you can. I've had good success there. It's been a good place for me, from both a qualifying and a race standpoint. It's not my favorite place to go. Especially now, because it's become such a pushing and shoving match. If you're quick enough where you can dictate where you want to run or you're trying to stay out of the way and you survive a lot of the wrecks, that's how you make it though. It's either/or. You really have to have a good race car there or stay out of harm's way or let people go when they're faster than you and tuck in line and keep people away from you. Do all that and you can have a good, solid day there. I've been able to have good efforts there. I've yet to win there, but I've had good top-10 runs going and had a tire go down or something like that. I don't really worry about going there because I've had good success there and I know I get around there well."
HOW DID YOU PERFORM AT BRISTOL LAST YEAR? "Bristol was very difficult for me last year because I drove with two broken ribs. I was sore, my shoulder and everything. Typically, I've never really had a problem with fatigue there. There are times when the car is terrible and you'll flex your arm continually fighting on the wheel and hanging on. Your arms can get tired because of that. If the car is decent and you're in a groove and running competitive, then you're not really thinking about it. Our car wasn't bad there, I just couldn't drive it as hard as I wanted to. We were running pretty well and running right on Bobby Labonte's bumper when they all stopped in front of Bobby and I couldn't stop behind him. We were running with the top group there and I had to come in and go to the back of the pack. That hurt us. If we hadn't gotten in that deal we probably would have had a pretty good race. I did get fatigued a bit later in the race and my ribs were hurting me and my shoulder, I was just kind of hanging on. We still finished decent considering."