Derrike Cope

Derrike Cope

3/11/1958

NASCAR driver best know for winning the Daytona 500 in in 1990 whan a last lap puncture for Dale Earnhardt handed Cope the win.

Derrike Cope was planning on professional baseball being his career. The Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles were scouting Derrike during his high school days, but Derrike's father Don insisted he take the scholarship that Whitman College offered. In 1978 with Derrike playing catcher in a collegiate baseball game in Walla Walla, Washington, his plans for a baseball career immediately changed. He went to retrieve a wild pitch and when he turned to throw back to the base, his knee gave way. It turned out that the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments were severed.

During his recovery, he helped his brother with his race car. Derrike's father was an engine builder for some of the best drivers in Winston West competition. This led Derrike to be interested in racing and after driving a few times, came up with the conclusion that racing would be his new career. He soon made his way up through the short tracks in the Northwest, and it wasn't long before he made his Winston Cup debut at Riverside International Raceway in 1982. His #95 car finished 36th after getting an oil leak, and Cope won $625. Cope ran part-time in the Cup series after that, making a brief attempt at Rookie of the Year in 1987. In 1989, he hooked up with Bob Whitcomb to drive his #10 Purolator Pontiac, posting 4-top ten finshes.

In 1990 Daytona 500, on the last lap, Dale Earnhardt ran over a piece of debris and sustained a tire failure in turn 3, causing him to nearly lose control. In his attempt to save the car from a potential crash, Cope took the lead and won his first NASCAR race.

Derrike also won a race at Dover later in the 1990 season, and wound up eighteenth in points. Following the 1992 season, Cope left the Whitcomb operation and drove the Bojangles Ford for Cale Yarborough. Midway thorough the 1994 season, Cope was replaced by Jeremy Mayfield and began driving for Bobby Allison's Straight Arrow Ford. During 1994, Cope won his first career Busch Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway, driving a Ford Thunderbird for Ron Zock. The next year was Cope's best season, Derrike chalking up eight top ten finishes, and ending up  fifteenth in the points.

When Allison's team shut down after the 1996 season, Cope signed on with the fledging MB2 Motorsports operation, driving the Skittles Pontiac to a 27th place finish in points. After one year, he was released and signed on with Bahari' Racing operation. Despite missing some races due to injury, Cope won his first career pole position at Lowe's Motor Speedway, although he failed to post a top-ten finishes.

Cope returned to Bahari in 1999 with Sara Lee sponsorship. After failing to qualify for ten races, Cope was dismissed from the ride. After making sporadic appearances for LJ Racing and Larry Hedrick Motorsports, Cope signed on to drive the Ford Taurus owned by Fenley-Moore Motorsports. However, Cope became unhappy when the team only ran a part-time schedule, and quit the team in disgust. He spent the rest of the year on the sidelines, before taking over the R.C. Cola Dodge Ram at Impact Motorsports at the end of the season in the Craftsman Truck Series.

In 2001, he announced the formation of Quest Motor Racing, a team he would co-own with drag racer Warren Johnson. The team didn't qualify for a race all year, and his only start came with CLR Racing. He ran four races in the Busch Series for Fred Bickford, posting a best finish of 21st at Bristol Motor Speedway. The team had mild success the next year and Cope also ran some races with BAM.

After 18 starts in 2003, Cope merged the team with Arnold Motorsports. After several starts, Cope was released from the ride, and as a result Cope took back his equipment. He ran thirty races in the Advil Liquigels Ford for Jay Robinson in the Busch Series that season. His best finish came at Daytona, where he finished 20th.

In 2005, Cope tried merging his team again, joining forces with Larry Hollenbeck and S.W.A.T. Fitness, but it soon disappeared after Cope failed to qualify for the Daytona 500. Cope has attempted a couple of races with Ware Racing Enterprises, before making his only Cup start of the season at Martinsville Speedway, finishing 33rd in the Royal Administration Dodge for McGlynn Racing. After Royal wanted McGlynn to put Cope in McGlynn's regular ride, he was named their full-time driver.

In 2006, he attempted the full schedule for McGlynn, but soon cut back to a part-time schedule. His best finish thus far came at Michigan International Speedway, where he finished 34th. In the Busch Series, he has a best finish of 33rd at Dover International Speedway.

When Derrike is not racing, he presents motivational talks to school age children on such subjects as the importance of staying in school and never taking drugs. He is also actively involved in the March-of-Dimes, the DARE program, and supporting various charities. Being a positive role model and setting a good example is very important to Derrike.

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