NASCAR: Former Daytona 500 winner to return, first time since 2004

NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Derrike Cope is set to become the second oldest driver to compete in the Daytona 500 in what could be his final NASCAR Cup Series start.

Rick Ware Racing have confirmed a number of drivers for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season after entering last week without having confirmed any for any of their four chartered entries.

Last week, they confirmed that Joey Gase is set to run a limited schedule again in 2021, and this week, they have confirmed full-time efforts for both Cody Ware and Josh Bilicki.

James Davison, who competed part-time for the team last year as well, has said that he expects to be back in a similar role in 2021.

Now the team have confirmed that Derrike Cope is set to compete in this year’s Daytona 500.

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The 1990 winner of the “Great American Race” is set to return to Daytona International Speedway for his 24th attempt, and he is set to do so behind the wheel of the Jacob Companies-sponsored #15 Chevrolet. His last attempt was a failed attempt in 2011 with Max Q Motorsports.

In fact, his last six attempts are failed attempts; he hasn’t actually competed in the race since 2004 when he drove for Arnold Motorsports and finished in 30th place. He has competed in the race 14 times, and his 1990 win is his lone finish higher than 18th.

Cope most recently competed in the Cup Series with StarCom Racing in 2018 at Darlington Raceway, where he finished in 33rd place.

The 62-year-old San Diego, California native is set to become the second oldest driver in Daytona 500 history and just the third to compete in the race at 60 years old or older.

Mark Thompson holds the all-time record for oldest Daytona 500 driver after competing in it at the age of 66 in 2018. He finished in 22nd place.

Dave Marcis, who was 60 when he competed in the race in 2002, is the only other driver to compete in it as a sexagenarian. He finished in 42nd place after an early engine issue.

Here is what Cope had to say about the opportunity to return to Daytona International Speedway with Rick Ware Racing in a press release.

"“I am really looking forward to running this year’s Daytona 500 with Rick Ware Racing. I have known Rick [Ware] and his family for a long time and I am excited to have the opportunity to go to Daytona and race for another win! I am excited to have Don Perry with Jacob Company as the primary sponsor as well. I want to thank Mike and Matt Kohler and Bill Woehlemann with StarCom Fiber for making this all possible! I could not be more excited to get back to Daytona!”"

Here is what team owner Rick Ware had to add.

"“We are excited to partner together with Derrike on his final Daytona 500 start. Derrike is a former Daytona 500 champion, and has had a great career in NASCAR. I look forward to seeing the No. 15 Jacob Companies Chevrolet on track in a couple weeks!”"

Because of the fact that the #15 Chevrolet is a chartered entry, Cope is guaranteed a starting position in this race and will not have to worry about not getting into the field during single-car qualifying or the Bluegreen Vacations Duels.

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The 63rd annual Daytona 500 is scheduled to take place on Sunday, February 14, with Fox set to provide live coverage from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.