Former Yakima Speedway Racer Had Improbable Daytona 500 Win Too
While Michael McDowell's trip to victory lane at the 2021 Daytona 500 came in improbable fashion an even more unlikely champion of the 1990 Great American Race spent years racing at Yakima Speedway.
The crazy finish to Sunday's (February 14th) race at Daytona was reminiscent of Derrike Cope's victory in 1990. Cope was trailing the legendary Dale Earnhardt, Sr. who, at the time, was famously still seeking his first win in NASCAR's biggest event. "The Intimidator" cut his tire on some track debris and lost speed in turn three heading to the checkered flag. Cope took advantage of Earnhardt's notorious (3:30 mark of video below) bad luck and sped by to win the, likely, most improbable Daytona 500 of them all.
Cope was raised on the west side of Washington State in Spanaway but frequently raced at Yakima Speedway before becoming a Daytona 500 champion. His nieces, Angela and Amber, also spent much time on the oval in Yakima. According to his entry on MotorSportMagazine.com, "Cope’s early experiences were at the local Yakima Speedway before racing in the Late Model Sportsman and the Winston West Championships."
So where is Derrike Cope now? Right where he belongs. Cope became the second-oldest driver to ever start a Daytona 500 race yesterday at the age of 62, some 30 years after his stunning victory. Cope, running in the #15 car, did not finish (DNF) and came in 40th out of 40. It was his first NASCAR race since 2018. Coincidentally, it was on this date (February 15th) in 1998 that Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500 after 20 years of trying.
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