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A native of Spanaway, Wash., Derrike Cope, who turned 65 on Nov. 3, made 428 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series, earning two wins.
One of those wins came in the 1990 Daytona 500 that included a last-lap pass of Dale Earnhardt.
The 1990 race is always described as Earnhardt's loss, not described as Cope’s win.
Author Brock Beard is out to give Cope his due.
Brock Beard is NASCAR racing’s version of M. Scott Peck, who wrote the book The Road Less Traveled.
Beard takes the road less traveled when it comes to writing and videography about NASCAR. While other writers and fans gravitate to the sport’s biggest stars, Beard has created a successful niche for himself with the popular Patreon LastCaronBrock website and Twitter/X account @LastCaronBrock, dedicated to those drivers who finish last primarily in Cup races.
This week, Beard, whose day job is as an administrator with the California Children’s Services Department, is seeing his latest book—a true labor of love—published on Amazon, simply titled Cope, an interesting history of now-retired NASCAR driver Derrike Cope.
A native of Spanaway, Wash., Cope, who turned 65 on Nov. 3, made 428 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series, earning two wins, six top-5s, 32 top-10s and three poles in his 32-year career. He also made 280 Xfinity Series starts with one win, and 49 starts in the Menard’s West Series, earning four wins, 20 top-5s, 25-top-10s and 3 poles.
But the biggest moment of Cope’s career came on February 18, 1990, behind the wheel of the Whitcomb Racing No. 10 Purolator-sponsored Chevrolet, when he became the sport’s David, beating NASCAR’s Goliath, Dale Earnhardt, on a last-lap pass that has gone down in the sport’s annals as one of the greatest upsets in NASCAR history (especially considering Cope never finished higher than sixth in a Cup race in his career before that race).
Cope, who got the win at Daytona after Earnhardt’s tire went down heading into Turn 3—and deprived The Intimidator yet again of a win at the World Center of Racing until eight years later—would also earn his second and final career Cup win later that year at Dover.
While the latter stages of his career were at times a struggle, Cope remained—and does so still to this day—a fan favorite, particularly for what he did on that crisp February afternoon.
You’ve heard of Earnhardt’s famous “Pass In The Grass”? Well, Cope’s pass could easily be described as Earnhardt’s “Kick In The Ass,” a defeat that forever haunted the infamous Man In Black through the remainder of his career until his unfortunate death in a last lap wreck, ironically, on Feb. 18, 2001, 11 years to the day he lost to Cope.
Autoweek spoke exclusively to Beard, a resident of Northern California, about how his book on Cope came about, roughly five years after the release of his previous book on late NASCAR driver J.D. McDuffie. Here are some excerpts from that interview:
“Derrike was the very first guy I pulled for as a kid, starting back in 1992,” Beard said.
A few weeks after a family vacation to Disneyland, the then-8-year-old Beard attended his first Cup race in 1992 at the then-Sears Point Raceway (now Sonoma Raceway).
“We had gone to Disneyland a few weeks before and I was wearing this pink Mickey Mouse cap. We still have a picture in our family photo album of Derrike, the mustache, the hair, all that. He reached out, signed my cap and I still have it in a box in my study. Plus, I always loved the paint scheme on his car. The paint schemes in the sport were the first thing that really intrigued me and the competition of course soon after. I always loved that orange and white car with the blue numbers and followed his career all the way through his last start at Daytona (2021).
“So I went up to him at Phoenix in November 2018, right after I published my J.D. McDuffie book, I went up to Derek and his wife, Elyshia, asked them about it and they just jumped right into it. They even talked about his baseball career and went from there. The first interview (with Cope), he was just kind of figuring me out and all that. But really, by the second interview, he really opened up, and we only had to do a couple others after that. Plus, he got me in touch with other people (to interview for the book). It was similar to the McDuffie book where one person gets in touch with a couple other people and pretty soon you've got plenty enough material for a good story.”
Cope has said it countless times in his life and Beard reprises it as well, namely, had Cope not become a race car driver, he had the outstanding talent to become a Major League baseball player. But an injury cut short his playing career, so he threw himself into racing—and he’s been there ever since.
Cope is retired now as a racer, but has learned to excel in yet another sport, namely golf.
Like he did with the book on McDuffie, Beard is also self-publishing the book on Cope but has high hopes for it, particularly given Cope’s large and longtime loyal fan base.
“It's been a grassroots effort, which I think is pretty appropriate to Derek's career itself,” Beard told Autoweek.
But there is still one thing that bothers Beard, namely, the legitimacy of Cope’s win in the public eye and in the media.
“You hear a lot of people talking about, ‘Oh, Derrike’s 500 win was a fluke.’ It's always described as Earnhardt's loss, not described as Cope’s win. When I did the promotional video trailer for the book, I deliberately left out any clips of like Teresa (Earnhardt) in the hauler. It was more like, look, this is what it was like for him and this is what it was like for the team.
“This was a massive accomplishment, even if Derrike would have finished second in that race. I hope that’s something that readers come away with, understanding better from this book. Really, what the press have written about him and stuff, I'm sure that's something that he's just as passionate about getting out there, as well.”
Cope is available in a paperback print version (246 pages, complete with several pages of photos from his career, including quite a few from the Cope's private family photo album), as well as an e-book platform. Beard also narrates the audio book version, much like he did with the McDuffie book, which really helped lay the groundwork from a technical standpoint for Beard’s book on Cope.
Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter/X at @JerryBonkowski.