Derrike Cope’s racing renaissance and 2017 plans
By Taylor Goins
March 23, 2017
After competing for 30 years in NASCAR’s premier series, 1990 Daytona 500 champion Derrike Cope entered the 2017 season with a wealth of experience competing against and beating the sport’s upper echelon of drivers.
He also began 2017 with a renewed optimism and drive, which is understandable given that he had not made a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start since 2009.
Cope spoke exclusively with The Racing Experts and shared his thoughts and excitement on being back in NASCAR’s top series.
“I truly enjoy getting back into the Cup Series,” he said. “I really enjoy these cars and really the opportunity to kind of see the nuances these cars have now.”
Driving the No. 55 Chevrolet for Premium Motorsports, Cope has competed in three out of the four MENCS races this season, and he just scored a season-best finish of 33rd place this past Sunday at Phoenix Raceway (which is also his best Cup finish in twelve years).
Given the fact that Cope and Premium Motorsports are competing against teams with exponentially more resources at their disposal, this is certainly an achievement of note.
“We’re a younger, small team, don’t have a lot of funding and we run a lot of used tires, so we really kind of stay within ourselves, really can't run with the leaders, but we're getting better each week, ” Cope said.
Cope and his team have improved their finishing position in each of the three MENCS races attempted this season.
Don’t be surprised if this upward trend for Cope continues. The driver says he and his Premium Motorsports team have more cars and better equipment at their disposal for the remainder of the season.
“We’ve got some better cars back home, just trying to get through the west coast swing, and hopefully have our better cars later on,” Cope said.
In addition to his role as a driver, Cope is a full-time employee in the Premium Motorsports shop, so he is involved with the team’s performance each week, regardless if he is at the track in driver’s uniform or not.
“I work full-time for the team and I do shock absorbers for the 15 and the 55, so I work in the shop,” Cope said.
When asked about plans for the rest of the 2017 season, Cope confirmed that he would be in the car this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
He also stated that someone else would be in the car at Martinsville, with possibilities for Texas and Richmond still being up in the air.
Cope also weighed in to TRE on how many more races he would run this year.
“I'm on a limited schedule,” he said. “I really don't know how many races I'll run, we've got to try to find some more funding, but we'll probably run 10, 12 races, I think.”
NASCAR Media Group Daniel Courson/The Racing Experts