When they say age is just a number, the picture next to that phrase belongs to Derrike Cope.
He was the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year — in 1984. Ronald Regan was President, Johnny Carson hosted the Academy Awards, and Apple came out with its first mass-produced PC, the Macintosh.
He won Daytona in 1990, before William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman were even born.
And here we are, in 2017, and Cope keeps motoring along. He’s raced 719 times in NASCAR’s truck (15 times) Xfinity (280 times) and Cup series (424 times). At 59, he doesn’t see an end to his career — just challenges.
“It’s not hard to keep going when you have great passion for driving a race car or working on a race car,” he said in an interview with Alt-Driver. “It’s what I’ve done my whole life.
“It’s what I love to do.”
He’s going to continue doing it as a Mr. Everything for the brand new Starcom Racing team. He’s going to drive, be the team manager, put together a team and build the operation from scratch. While that might seem daunting and overwhelming, Cope is so energized Matt Kohler, the team president, noted that he’s at the garage at 5 a.m. and has a tremendous work ethic.
“He’s not just a driver. He’s putting in 16 to 18 hour days seven days a week.,” Kohler said.
StarCom approached Cope because of his varied experience in all facets of racing, believing that he’s the perfect person to help make StarCom competitive with other small teams.
That in and of itself is a tough climb. Cope and Kohler are realistic enough to understand that StarCom isn’t going to have routine top 10 or top 20 finishes. They want to build the best team possible that can compete with — and beat — teams of similar size and resources.
“There are obstacles when you’re small,” Cope said. “The bigger teams have 400 to 600 employees and every tool at their disposal. They keep their people and they have hired some of the best people in the industry.” While StarCom hasn’t yet finalized its plans for 2018, Cope believes the team will have anywhere from 12 to 25 people.
“It is a tough challenge and you see the disparity in the sport as a result of it,” Cope said.
Still, the team hopes to build itself to the point it can finish in the 25-32 range in which and compete with — and finish ahead of — similar sized teams.
“All of these teams in the top 36 are very cohesive and productive groups,” Cope said. “Coming in as a brand new entity, we have to look to bring a quality product to the race track. Realistically, if we could be in the 25-32 range that would be what we’re striving for. If we can be in a position to run with similar teams week in and week out that would be a very positive thing.”
Cope says he hasn’t thought about when he’ll give up racing. He knows it will come one day — but that’s just not today.
“I don’t know that. I’ve never put a time frame on it,” Cope said. We just have to see. I just take it one week at a time, one month at a time, one race at a time.”