Derrike Cope (born November 3, 1958) is an American professional stock car racing driver and team owner. He is known for his win in the 1990 Daytona 500. He currently competes part-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 55 Chevrolet SS for Premium Motorsports.
Cope was born in San Diego, California, and was raised in Spanaway, Washington. In high school, he enjoyed auto racing and baseball. He was a catcher on the Bethel High School baseball team, and later attended Whitman College to continue his baseball dreams. While being scouted by major league baseball teams, Cope suffered a knee injury that ended his hopes of a big-league career. He then devoted himself to racing full-time.
Cope progressed through the short-track ranks in the Northwest, and later made his Winston Cup debut at Riverside International Raceway in 1982. Cope’s No. 95 car finished 36th there after developing an oil leak, and he won $625.
He ran part-time in the Winston Cup series after that, making an attempt at Rookie of the Year in 1987. In 1989, he signed with Bob Whitcomb to drive the No. 10 Purolator Pontiac and later Chevrolet, posting four top-10 finishes.
During the last lap of the 1990 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt ran over a piece of debris and cut a tire in turn three. After narrowly avoiding most of the resulting debris, Cope assumed the lead and earned his first win, as well as his first top 5 (his best finish prior to the 1990 Daytona 500 was 6th) in NASCAR competition. He became an overnight sensation as a result of the win, appearing on Late Night with David Letterman that week. At Dover later in the 1990 season, Cope rallied for another win after running out of fuel and falling off the lead lap. At year’s end, he wound up 18th in points.
Following the 1992 season, the Whitcomb team closed down, and Cope drove an originally unsponsored No. 66 Ford for Cale Yarborough. The car was later sponsored by Bojangles, and the number changed to No. 98, reflecting the restaurant’s 98 cent value menu.
Midway through the 1994 season, Cope was replaced by Jeremy Mayfield and began driving for Bobby Allison’s No. 12 Straight Arrow Ford, after a brief stint with car owner T.W. Taylor. During this season, Cope won his first career Busch Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway, driving the No. 82 Ford Thunderbird for Ron Zock. The 1995 season was Cope’s most consistent. He had eight top-10 finishes, and garnered a 15th-place finish in points.
When Allison’s team shut down after the 1996 season, Cope signed on with the fledgling MB2 Motorsports operation, driving the No. 36 Skittles Pontiac to a 27th-place finish in points. After one year, he was released and signed on with the Bahari Racing operation. Despite missing some races due to an injury, Cope won his first career pole position at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, although he failed to post a top-10 finish in the No. 30 Gumout car.
Cope returned to Bahari in 1999 with Sara Lee sponsorship. After failing to qualify for 10 races, Cope was released from the team. He made sporadic appearances for LJ Racing and Larry Hedrick Motorsports, and later signed on to drive the No. 15 Ford Taurus owned by Fenley-Moore Motorsports. Cope became unhappy when the team only ran a part-time schedule, and quit after a few races. He spent the rest of the year on the sidelines, before taking over the No. 86 R.C. Cola Dodge Ram at Impact Motorsports at the end of the season in the Craftsman Truck Series.
In 2001, Cope announced the formation of Quest Motor Racing, a team he would co-own with drag racer Warren Johnson. The team did not qualify for a race all year, and his only start came with CLR Racing. He ran four races in the Busch Series in the No. 94 owned by Fred Bickford, posting a best finish of 21st at Bristol Motor Speedway. The team had mild success the next year, garnering sponsorship from Avacor and Poison. Cope also ran some races with BAM Racing that year.
After 18 starts in 2003 driving the No. 37 Friendly’s Ice Cream Chevrolet, Cope merged the team with Arnold Motorsports. Cope qualified 5th for the 2004 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, but after several starts, Cope was released from the ride, and took back his equipment. He also ran 30 races in the No. 49 Advil Ford for Jay Robinson in the Busch Series that season. His best finish, 20th, came at Daytona.
In 2005, Cope tried merging his team again, joining forces with Larry Hollenbeck and S.W.A.T. Fitness, but lost the opportunity after he failed to qualify for the Daytona 500. Cope had 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 No. 08 Royal Administration/Sundance Vacations/My Guardian 911 Dodge for McGlynn Racing. Cope was later given the team’s full-time ride in the No. 00, as requested by the sponsor.
In 2006, Cope intended to run a full schedule for McGlynn with No. 74 car, but soon cut back to part-time. His best finish was at Michigan International Speedway, where he finished 34th. In the Busch Series, his best finish in the 49 car was 33rd at Dover International Speedway, and his best start was 33rd at Bristol Motor Speedway. He intended to run more races with McGlynn in 2007, but the team suspended operations after only attempting one race. He spent the season driving part-time schedules for Robinson and Xpress Motorsports.
In 2008, he signed to drive for Means Racing in the Nationwide Series, but switched midseason to drive for James Finch and Jay Robinson Racing. Later in the season, Cope began entering his own trucks and cars in the Craftsman Truck Series and Nationwide Series. In the truck series he fielded the No. 73 and No. 74 trucks with Nick Turner and Jennifer Jo Cobb being the primary drivers, while in the Nationwide Series he fielded the No. 73 and No. 78 cars with Kevin Lepage driving the No. 73 and others racing the No. 78.
As the 2009 season approached, Cope announced he would be involved on all three of NASCAR’s circuits, as he would pilot the No. 75 Cope/Keller Racing Dodge in the Sprint Cup series with BluFrog Energy Drink coming on board as a primary sponsor during Daytona Speedweeks. He began the season as the driver of the No. 41 Metal Jeans Chevrolet Impala for Rick Ware Racing in the Nationwide Series, but was released after three races, and moved to his own team. He has also fielded trucks part-time for himself, Larry Foyt, and Jennifer Jo Cobb. Cope has fielded the No. 78 car for one race in nationwide. He has fielded the No. 73 for most of the races.
In 2009, Cope attempted six races with his self-owned team; he failed to qualify for any of them. At the October Martinsville race, Cope successfully attempted his first Sprint Cup race since 2006 while driving for Larry Gunselman.
In 2010, Cope teamed up with Dale Clemons as co-owners of new racing venture Stratus Racing Group. The team ran a full schedule with Cope as driver in both the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. It also ran a limited schedule in the ARCA Re/Max Series, fielding a car for Cope’s twin nieces Amber Cope and Angela Cope, who split the ride.
Cope returned to Jay Robinson Inc. for 2011 in the No. 28 Chevrolet. For the 2011 Daytona 500, Cope attempted to qualify the No. 64 Toyota for Larry Gunselman with sponsorship from Sta-Bil. Cope finished 13th in the Budweiser Shootout driving for Gunselman. Cope has decided to field his cup car in select races with manufacturing backing from Chevrolet instead of Dodge. In the 2011 Sprint Showdown, Cope was involved in a crash with Landon Cassill, where he T-boned Cassill’s car when he spun out. Neither driver was injured. Cope finished 20th in Nationwide Series standings, competing in all but one event.
Cope returned to the Nationwide Series in 2012, competing in the No. 73 Chevrolet for CFK Motorsports. Cope made his first race of the season in his own car during the fall race a Phoenix. Cope announced that he would run a part-time schedule in 2013. During the test session in Daytona in January 2014, Cope tested the 73 car. He hired the No. 70 car, driving for Jay Robinson Racing at Phoenix International Raceway with his Toyota Camry, but after qualifying crash, although the car didn’t have the backup car, the car changed to an old 2012 Chevrolet Impala.
In 2014, Cope’s team bought the equipment from the defunct ML Motorsports. Youtheory agreed to sponsor Cope for the entire 2014 season, enabling Cope to race full-time for the first time since 2011. It was a much needed break for Cope, and he piloted the No. 70 Youtheory Chevrolet to a 22nd-place points finish. In January 2015, Cope announced that he would return to the Xfinity Series for the part-time 2015 season with Charlie’s Soap as the sponsor. Cope returned in 2016, with him driving 28 races, Timmy Hill driving 2 races and Dexter Stacey driving the last 3 races of season. Cope missed the race at Daytona after issues in qualifying, but qualified the following week in Atlanta. During the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen, Cope radioed to his team that he was having a brake problem. Shortly after, the front end of the car exploded and black smoke blew from the car. NASCAR confiscated the car and investigated what had happened. It was later discovered that a brake caliper had blown up and caused the explosion. Cope was not hurt.
In January 2017, Cope closed down his Xfinity Series team after 16 years of competition. In February, it was announced that Cope would return to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, driving for Premium Motorsports. On March 3, 2017, Cope qualified for the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his first race since 2009 at NASCAR’s highest level. Cope would finish under power in 36th, after suffering power steering problems during the race.