1990 Daytona winner Cope plans aggression on NASCAR swansong

One-time Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope says the NASCAR Cup regulars will "know I am there" in his final competition appearance on Sunday, 10 years after his last Daytona start

1990 Daytona winner Cope plans aggression on NASCAR swansong

The 62-year-old, who famously won the Daytona 500 in 1990 after a puncture on the last lap denied Dale Earnhardt a maiden victory in the event, will drive a chartered Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet Camaro for one last entry in the 200-lap race.

Since stepping back from a full-time programme in 1999, Cope has made sporadic Cup appearances including attempting to qualify for a majority of races in 2006.

His last Daytona 500 entry came in 2011 and his last Cup start was at Darlington in 2018.

But despite his race rustiness, Cope is confident he can still be a factor come the often-frantic closing laps.

"I feel like I understand the air as good as anyone," he said.

"I will go to Daytona, and if I do make it to the end, with 20 [laps] to go, and I can get myself in a position to have some air, and be in a position to race hard, they will know I am there.

PLUS: The driver behind Daytona's greatest upset

"I am not afraid of anything. I am not afraid of mixing it up, I am not afraid of pushing and shoving, and I am not afraid of wrecking. Bottom line is if they want to play, we'll play.

"The sport is very aggressive right now. You have a lot of young kids that really have no regard for pretty much anything, except getting to the finish line and winning.

"That's just the way I look at it. I've got one shot at this thing, and when all is said and done, I can walk away and say: 'I had a lot of fun today and sorry you guys got wrecked.'"

Cope, who is team manager of the small StarCom Racing outfit, said the deal to run the race was a "gift" from his co-owners and his wife.

"I've always wanted to run a couple of races [for StarCom]," he said.

"But I thought it was best financially just for us to try and put some things together of the racing kind, things under its belt, get in some races and that kind of took me out of the seat, which was really the ultimate plan.

"I love Daytona. I've always felt like if I would end things, I'd like to be doing it there, and certainly I have a lot of passion for the place."

As Cope is nearly 37 years older than reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott, some have questioned whether drivers of his age should compete, but he is non-plussed by the furore.

"I don't really pay attention to social media. I really don't care what other people think, if I did, I probably wouldn't be in this position," he said.

"Honestly, it is really about what I want, and this is something for my wife and I to absorb together and enjoy and have good equipment to go down there and have some fun.

"When all is said and done, as long as I am at peace with myself, I think that is all you can ask for."

Cope failed to set a lap time during qualifying on Wednesday night after a car issue, but as a charter entry was guaranteed a spot in the 40-car field. He qualified in 32nd.

shares
comments
Remembering the 1981 Daytona 500: Richard Petty's last hurrah

Previous article

Remembering the 1981 Daytona 500: Richard Petty's last hurrah

Next article

NASCAR would be "surprised" to attract new OEMs without hybrid move

NASCAR would be "surprised" to attract new OEMs without hybrid move
Load comments

About this article

Series NASCAR
Author Jake Nichol
Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR Plus

Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR

There has never been a full-time British driver in the NASCAR Cup. But Alex Sedgwick, who is rising through the stock car ranks, wants that to change and could be a trailblazer for European talents to reach the top echelons of the NASCAR ladder

NASCAR
Feb 28, 2021
How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport Plus

How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport

It's 20 years since legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr died at the Daytona 500, but the legacy of his crash continues today through the pioneering safety work done by NASCAR

NASCAR
Feb 18, 2021
The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021 Plus

The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season

NASCAR
Feb 12, 2021
How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career Plus

How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a shot at redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith

NASCAR
Feb 11, 2021
Autosport's top 5 NASCAR machines Plus

Autosport's top 5 NASCAR machines

The American stock car scene is more famous for its close racing and occasional punch-ups, but there have been some fantastic machines too. As part of Autosport's 70th anniversary celebrations in 2020, we picked out five of its best

NASCAR
Jan 3, 2021
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Plus

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future

NASCAR
Nov 17, 2020
Why Johnson’s playoff failure won’t tarnish his legacy Plus

Why Johnson’s playoff failure won’t tarnish his legacy

The last season of a retiring NASCAR great has shown promise, and may have resulted in another playoff push without small issues outside his control. 2020 won't be the year Jimmie Johnson would have wanted, but it won't be what he is remembered for

NASCAR
Sep 3, 2020
Why a Le Mans winner is heading into the “unknown world” of NASCAR Plus

Why a Le Mans winner is heading into the “unknown world” of NASCAR

Comparing Porsche's 919 HYBRID LMP1 to NASCAR is motorsport's equivalent of apples and oranges, but this weekend one of Weissach's top works aces will pit his skills against the regulars and revive the tradition of the 'road-course ringer'

NASCAR
Aug 13, 2020