Cope, who famously received the standard Cup season-opener 31 years in the past after a puncture on the final lap denied Dale Earnhardt a maiden win within the occasion, will drive a chartered Rick Ware Racing-run Chevrolet Camaro in his last entry at Daytona Worldwide Speedway.
After stepping again from a full-time racing profession in 1999, Cope has made sporadic Cup appearances within the intervening years, together with trying to qualify for a majority of races in 2006, however final competed in a Cup race at Darlington in 2018. His final Daytona 500 entry got here in 2011.
However regardless of his rustiness in a Cup automotive, and the age issue, Cope – who was as soon as touted as a possible baseball star till an harm curtailed his taking part in profession – is assured he can nonetheless be an element come the often-frantic closing laps of the five hundred.
“I really feel like I perceive the air pretty much as good as anybody,” defined Cope, whose different victory in Cup got here at Dover later in 1990. “I’ll go to Daytona, and if I do make it to the tip, with 20 [laps] to go, and I can get myself able to have some air, and be able to race exhausting, they are going to know I’m there.”
“I’m not afraid of something, I’m not afraid of blending it up, I’m not afraid of pushing and shoving, and I’m not afraid of wrecking. Backside line is that if they need to play, we’ll play.
“The game could be very aggressive proper now. You’ve got lots of younger youngsters that actually haven’t any regard for just about something, besides attending to the end line and profitable.
“That’s simply the best way I have a look at it. I’ve acquired one shot at this factor, and when all is claimed and completed, I can stroll away and say: ‘I had lots of enjoyable immediately and sorry you guys acquired wrecked.’”
Race winner Derrike Cope
Photograph by: NASCAR Media
Cope, who’s staff supervisor of the small StarCom Racing outfit, stated the deal to run the race was a “present” from his co-owners and his spouse, and that “I used to be not likely aware of what transpired” – solely letting him find out about it when the deal was already completed.
“I’ve all the time needed to run a few races, however my position right here at StarCom, only for the organisation, I believed it was finest financially only for us to try to put some issues collectively of the racing type, issues underneath its belt, get in some races and that sort of took me out of the seat, which was actually the last word plan,” he defined.
“I like Daytona I’ve all the time felt like if I might finish issues, I’d wish to be doing it there, and definitely I’ve lots of ardour for the place.”
With Cope being almost 37 years older than reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott, there have been some folks questioning whether or not it’s proper for somebody of Cope’s age to compete, however the man himself is non-plussed by the furore.
“I don’t actually take note of social media,” he stated. “I actually don’t care what different folks suppose, if I did, I most likely wouldn’t be on this place.
“Truthfully, it’s actually about what I would like, and that is one thing for my spouse and I to soak up collectively and luxuriate in and have good tools to go down there and have some enjoyable. I actually don’t care what different folks suppose to be sincere with you. I’m going to go down there, have some enjoyable, and let the chips fall the place they might, and when all is claimed and completed, so long as I’m at peace with myself, I believe that’s all you may ask for…”
Cope didn’t set a lap time throughout qualifying on Wednesday night time after a automotive concern, however as a constitution entry was assured a spot within the 40-car discipline.
He’ll begin from 32nd however will doubtless take the inexperienced flag nicely inside the highest 30 locations as a number of drivers have been pressured to take backup vehicles after wrecks within the Duel races.