Derrike Cope returns to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

By Kyle Magda
March 4, 2017

HAMPTON, Ga.—Long-time owner/driver Derrike Cope is once again racing with the stars and cars of NASCAR’s top-tier series this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Cope will make his first Cup start since 2009 for the Jay Robinson-owned Premium Motorsports in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sunday.

His last start came in October of 2009 at Martinsville Speedway. Cope had attempted to qualify for seven races between now and that Martinsville race.

With 39 cars on the entry list, the 58-year-old driver was guaranteed to compete in the race will start 38th.

“I’ve certainly been long-time friends with Jay Robinson and got really involved when his Cup deal got started,” Cope said. “I kept an eye on what he was doing and I’ve been running my XFINITY team.

“We just started looking at the struggles we had in XFINITY and the complexion over there and Jay and I just started talking about what we could do to bring some sponsorship to here and try to run an open car here going back to the Cup Series.”

Cope recently competed in the XFINITY Series while running his own team the past five seasons. He saw the struggles with the program and began talking to Robinson about a return to Cup.

“I got excited about it,” Cope said. “My wife and I and all our people went to work and found this things to try to put a program together. Right now, we’re excited about it and we’re going to get off here at Atlanta and see what comes.”

The veteran driver last attempted a Cup race in fall 2011 at Martinsville in his own Dodge but didn’t make the event.

Cope wasn’t nervous at all getting back into a Cup car with his NASCAR career spanning back to 1981. Since then, the cars have changed in the last 35 years and a more-highly competitive field in today’s series.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I haven’t been in these cars, I obviously looked at them and intrigued. They’re not much more power than what we had.

“The aero package and the platform are way different with these cars. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and feel what these cars have to offer.

“When I started, the cars had bumpers and secondary air-dams, spoilers that were laid back 11-12 degrees. They’re a lot different, more antiquated than they are now. Obviously, the complexion of the cars has changed with zero-ground clearance. I dealt with shock absorbers a long time so the transition of them with the bleeds and amount of rebound forces they’ve run.

“You go through all the other things and now we got the bump springs and stops. A lot has changed. Certainly, the technology has come a long way but the cars are very, very sexy.”

Wade Tractor and Equipment jumped on board with Cope for this weekend in his first Cup start of 2017 and plans to run more throughout the year.

The No. 55 Premium Motorsports team will make its first start in Cup this season after the team did not make the field for the Daytona 500 with Reed Sorenson.

Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts
NASCAR Media Group
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