Countdown to Daytona: Derrike Cope's upset over The Intimidator

BY Tom Jensen • January 25, 2017

There are just 32 days left until Daytona Day — Feb. 26, when the Daytona 500 will take place live on FOX.

To commemorate the No. 32, we go back to 1990 and the running of the 32nd Daytona 500, a race that featured a surprise winner and a heartbreaking finish.

Dale Earnhardt had been trying to win NASCAR’s biggest race since 1979 and in 1990, it looked like he was finally going to seal the deal.

On that day, Earnhardt started on the outside pole in the all-conquering black No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, which had been one of the cars to beat all during Speedweeks.

Earnhardt set a fast pace early on and led 155 of 200 laps — more than three-quarters of the entire race.

But on the last lap of the race, Earnhardt ran over a piece of Ricky Rudd’s bell-housing heading into Turn 3, and the No. 3 slowed as it drifted high in the track.

Behind Earnhardt, Derrike Cope was running second in the No. 10 Chevrolet owned by Bob Whitcomb.

Cope, who led just 5 laps to Earnhardt’s 155, took the lead and drove to victory ahead of two drivers who would later go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame: Terry Labonte and Bill Elliott. Rudd wound up fourth, with Earnhardt credited with a fifth-place finish.

A lot of fans said Cope was lucky to win the first race of his career and without question, Earnhardt’s flat tire keyed his victory. But Cope’s crew chief, Buddy Parrott, was one of the best in the business and built a race car good enough to put him in position to win.

Cope would win later that year at Dover, which as it turned out was his final victory in 409 career NASCAR Premier Series starts.

And it would be eight more long years before Earnhardt finally won NASCAR’s biggest race.