Derrike Cope will make his return to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. The two-time Cup Series race winner will drive for Premium Motorsports on a part-time basis starting at Atlanta. A car number and sponsors have not been announced.
The news was reported on Wednesday through a YouTube video and Facebook post.
“After over 700 starts in NASCAR events, we are excited to get back going in NASCAR’s Cup Series!” the post proclaimed.
In 2016, Cope drove full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, finishing 29th in points. He ran the majority of the 2014–2016 seasons as an owner/driver in the #70 for Derrike Cope Racing. The team shut down after the 2016 season.
His last Cup start was at Martinsville in 2009; after that, he attempted to make the Daytona 500 in 2010 and 2011, but failed to qualify. Cope’s most recent Cup attempt was the 2011 Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville for Stratus Racing Group.
Cope enjoyed Cup success at the start of the 1990s, recording an upset victory in the Daytona 500 for Whitcomb Racing. He followed it up with another win at Dover en route to a then-career-best 18th-place points finish. He continued to run full-time in the Cup Series for teams like Cale Yarborough Motorsports, Bobby Allison Motorsports, MB2 Motorsports and Bahari Racing. His best finish in the drivers’ championship came in 1995 with Allison, when he finished 15th. However, he never recorded another win at NASCAR’s top level.
Premium Motorsports owner Jay Robinson has a history with Cope. When he operated Jay Robinson Racing, he hired Cope to run various Busch/Nationwide (now Xfinity) races from 2002–2008 before he ran the full 2011 season for Robinson. That year, the pair finished 20th in the drivers’ standings.
The 2017 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway will be held on March 5.
Featured image courtesy of Benjamin Palmer, TheRacingExperts.com