Texas Takes its Toll on Drivers

By Shawn A. Akers FORT WORTH, Texas (April 6, 1998) Just when Derrike Cope thought he was well on his way to recovery, along came Texas Motor Speedway. Cope, who broke a pair of ribs in a hard accident at Atlanta last ...

   By Shawn A. Akers
   FORT WORTH, Texas (April 6, 1998)

Just when Derrike Cope thought he was well on his way to recovery, along came Texas Motor Speedway.

Cope, who broke a pair of ribs in a hard accident at Atlanta last month, said he was beginning to feel much better prior to qualifying for last Sunday's Texas 500. But then, on his Bud Pole Qualifying run last Friday afternoon, Cope slammed the wall between Turns 1 and 2, re-breaking the same ribs and mangling his No. 30 Gumout Pontiac.

"My car just slid," Cope said. "My car was good going into the corner and then all of a sudden I hit something and the car just got slick. It was kind of in a freewheel spin and then I got up the race track and at that point it grabbed again and turned me around. Everything felt fine until that point."

"The shame of it all was that Derrike was beginning to feel a lot better last Monday and on through the week, and he was really looking forward to racing on Sunday," Rider said. "Then, we all know what happened. It's just been a lot of bad luck for Derrike lately."

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will take this weekend off prior to the Goody's Headache Powder 500 on April 19 at Martinsville Speedway, but that won't be enough time for Cope to recover from his injuries. Cope has been given three weeks off by team owner Chuck Rider in hopes that he'll be able to return on April 26 for the DieHard 500 at Talladega.

"Chuck and I talked, and I could probably get back in the car, but I wouldn't be comfortable," Cope said. "You work really hard at Martinsville and right now movement is not good, and I can tell there's a lot of excessive movement in my ribs right now. I probably tore some muscles and some loose. It's just better to not do anything period. I'll just lay on the couch and try to be not very active and try to get on the mend."

Jeff Green will step in and drive the No. 30 Grand Prix at Martinsville. Green and Cope are good friends, and Green agreed to drive the car after the owner of the No. 29 Diamond Ridge Chevrolet, Gary Bechtel, decided to withdraw from competition at Martinsville and perhaps beyond that to "regroup."

"We're very comfortable with putting Jeff in our car because we know he can drive a race car well," Rider said. "We're very thankful to Jeff and to Gary Bechtel for letting Jeff take the opportunity to drive for us. We know that Jeff will do a great job for us."

Morgan Shepherd drove Mac Martin's No. 92 Kraft Chevrolet for Cope in Saturday's Coca-Cola 300, after Cope qualified the car 13th. Shepherd posted a 32nd-place finish.

"We were off on the chassis to start with," Shepherd said. "We kept changing things and finally got a little better. Then the engine just went flat. Must have been a broken valve spring." In the meantime, Texas also took its toll on another pair of drivers. Mike Skinner crashed hard during Sunday's race and suffered a broken right scapula and ligament separation in his left knee. Bob Moore of Sports Marketing Inc., the firm that represents the No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet team, said that Skinner's arm was in a sling, and that an MRI was most likely to be performed on his knee Tuesday.

Skinner was supposed to do some testing at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., on Tuesday, but obviously won't be physically up to the task. No decision has been made on who will drive the car at Martinsville, whether it be Skinner or another driver, and Moore said that it will most likely be Tuesday or Wednesday of next week before that happens. Greg Sacks' condition is still being determined following a hard crash in Turn 2 in Sunday's race. The driver of the No. 98 Thorn Apple Valley Ford will be kept overnight Monday at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas to run more tests, according to team mechanic-setup man Shane Cook.

Cook said a diagnosis has yet to be made on Sacks' condition, but that Sacks was alert on Monday. Source: NASCAR Online

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Derrike Cope , Mike Skinner , Jeff Green , Morgan Shepherd , Greg Sacks