Richmond: GM - Cope, Gideon interview

Derrike Cope, driver of the No. 37 Friendly's Chevrolet Monte Carlo, survived a violent crash during last September's Busch Series race at Richmond International Raceway. Cope is in Richmond again this weekend to try to qualify for the Pontiac ...

Derrike Cope, driver of the No. 37 Friendly's Chevrolet Monte Carlo, survived a violent crash during last September's Busch Series race at Richmond International Raceway. Cope is in Richmond again this weekend to try to qualify for the Pontiac Excitement 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race, slated for Saturday night.

DERRIKE COPE , NO. 37 FRIENDLY'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

DID YOUR WRECK HERE LAST YEAR LEAD YOU TO EXAMINE YOUR DRIVER COMPARTMENT ANY DIFFERENT?

"Not really. Fortunately, the car that I drove had all the stuff in the car. It had the good headrest, it had a good seat in it, it had the six-point harness in it - it had all the things.

"We had a stuck throttle and that's just one of those things. But, I thought everything held up relatively well. For the violent nature of the crash, I thought I came through it relatively well.

"I'm sure that not having the head rest and the types of things that are in these cars now, obviously the outcome could have been drastically different than that.

"When I knew I was going to hit the wall, I just did exactly what they had told us to do at Indy when we had our safety seminars there, and that was just to dig in - lean into the crash, into the head rest. If I had tried to do that on one of the past head rests there would have been nothing there.

"Obviously, I think everything was positive to me coming out of it the way I did."

DID IT SCARE YOU TO SEE THE WRECK ON TAPE?

"Not really. You just go through it. When you see it you think, 'Wow, that was pretty vicious.' Then you think back, you absorb the pain, you absorb the shot - the pain is at the moment and then there is pain afterwards. But, those things kind of leave you.

"I've hit pretty hard before, so I didn't really put that much emphasis on it. I wanted to get my bones healed and I wanted to get back at it."

DID OTHER DRIVERS COME TO YOU TO COMPARE NOTES AFTER THE WRECK, AS FAR AS WHAT SAFETY EQUIPMENT YOU WERE USING?

"Some guys asked questions about things. But, I think NASCAR was probably most aggressive. Those guys were very in tune to looking at every aspect.

"But, I think everybody kind of knows already. We're all talking and doing the same things. It's just that everybody is tweaking something a little different."

TOM GIDEON , SAFETY MANAGER, GM RACING:

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST THOUGHT WHEN YOU SAW COPE'S CRASH LAST SEPTEMBER?

"When I first saw him hit the wall, I thought, 'Whoa, we might have a bad one here.' I went down and looked at the car. It had collapsed considerably.

"But, the fact that the head restraints, the seat, the harness - all those thing worked. It's just remarkable how that whole driver safety thing has come along, through the efforts of a lot of people.

"I've always contended that if you could make that driver compartment safe, then the structure of the car was a secondary thing. If you can't restrain the head and if your seat is no good, then you're going to get the whipping motion that generally gives you a bad outcome on the neck.

"I think they've got that pretty well under control, based on more recent accidents - Cope's being one of them. I really believe that all the things they've done are in the right direction.

"And, now they're measuring everything. Of course, they've been getting the crash recordings from all these cars now for more than a year. They've collected a lot of data and they're at the point now where we can put that data into our testing, and actually run the similar crash pulse on the sled and see how the dummy comes out. A lot of effort has been made to try to get more realistic crash simulation, and I think things are moving along very quickly. It's kind of taken on a life of its own, which is what it should have always been."

DO YOU FEEL THAT THE SAFETY ENHANCEMENTS INTRODUCED OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE IN COPE SURVIVING THAT IMPACT?

"I think everyone would agree with that. That was a wreck of similar magnitude with some of the previous fatal wrecks. Based on the amount of crush in the structure and G-loads that were encountered, had he not been properly restrained with a good seat, it would have been a problem."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Derrike Cope