Cope Makes Papa Proud In First SLM Sunbelt Victory by Jeremy Davidson
After Goodyear Win At Lakeland, Cope Finally Grabs Another
Travis Cope's team celebrated as the youngester made his first trip to Victory Lane in a Super Late Model. (51 photos)
After just 10 laps of the Guaranteed Concrete Florida Triple Crown 200, brake rotors glowed as brightly as the sunset behind USA International Speedway. In the end, an emotional and exhausted Travis Cope sat in the winner’s circle for the second time this season.
“We’ve been chasing this Super Late Model thing for quite a while now and hadn’t gotten a win,” said Cope. “We always knew we could, but nothing ever lined up. Now, tonight, it did and we showed everybody that we could do it. I’m happy – really really, happy.”
Cope, of Bronson, Fla., recorded a Limited Late Model victory earlier this year at Lakeland but hadn’t seen the same success in Super Late Models until now. Cope drove away with the victory, nearly six seconds ahead of runner-up and FASCAR Sunbelt Super Late Model Series points leader Tim Russell. Veteran David Rogers placed third while Kurt Jett and David Dempsey completed the top five.
Cope started from the third position – which proved to be an advantageous spot behind Wayne Anderson. Anderson led Cope around polesitter Justin Larson and the duo built a sizeable lead over the field until the first caution flag flew on lap 48.
“Once I got past Larson, I was basically getting a lesson behind Wayne” said Cope. “I watched him when I was a little kid, racing against my Dad. I think he’s the fastest Late Model driver in Florida right now.”
On the lap 54 restart, Jeff Scofield tried aggressively to pass Cope for second, but the tactic failed and Cope stayed in front with Anderson. By the 75th circuit, Anderson and Cope continued to control the front while Rogers – who started 16th – had worked his way up to seventh.
The leaders pitted during a caution period just after the halfway mark and Anderson returned to the lead just nine laps after the restart. Three laps later, Cope returned to his now-familiar spot on Anderson’s rear bumper. By this time, however, Cope wasn’t content to follow and took over the race lead with 66 laps remaining.
“When there was a lapped car there, I saw an opportunity,” said Cope. “It wasn’t the best way I could pass [Anderson] but I did it. I got around him and was able to hold everybody off.”
As Cope took control, his competition took a turn for the worse. Jeff Choquette was racing in the third position, behind Cope and Anderson, but dropped out after breaking a rear brake caliper with 55 laps remaining. Choquette’s mechanical troubles had brought out the yellow flag and as the race restarted, Anderson’s engine failed and he retired to the pits.
After Choquette and Anderson’s early exits, Russell inherited the second position but never challenged for the lead. Over the final 35 laps, Cope established an unbeatable advantage and cruised to victory.
The Sunbelt Super Late Models return to action Sept. 29, in the Clyde Hart Memorial 125 at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway.
Triple Crown Race #3 Notes:
SECOND PLACE FINISH BRINGS TRIPLE CROWN TITLE TO RUSSELL
Good pit work... and a great race car... gave Tim Russell the Trople Crown title.
Tim Russell’s second-place finish earned him the 2007 Guaranteed Concrete Florida Triple Crown title – based on the Sunbelt Super Late Model Series’ three appearances at USA International Speedway.
Russell and Anderson each recorded a victory in the first two legs of the Triple Crown and they entered Saturday’s 200-lapper separated by four points. Until his engine failed, Anderson was on his way to winning his third career Triple Crown. Meanwhile, Russell needed to finish one position ahead of Anderson to claim it for himself. With Anderson out, Russell won the Triple Crown title and padded his overall Sunbelt Super Late Model Series lead.
ANDERSON’S ENGINE TROUBLES NO SURPRISE
Wayne Anderson gambled with his equipment – and lost. After dominating the first three-quarters of Saturday’s 200-lap race at Lakeland, Anderson was forced to make an early
exit due to engine failure. Anderson said he noticed a potential problem with the motor before leaving his race shop, but decided to take a chance.
“I’m a little mad at myself,” said Anderson. “I detected a little bit of a problem before I came down here [tonight]. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal and it turned out to be. We lost a cylinder. I didn’t want to blow the motor up so I when it went down on seven cylinders I just shut it off.”
AT AGE 52, ROGERS READY FOR MORE
Orlando’s David Rogers, 52, has done it all on the Florida Late Model scene. Although his schedule has been reduced from 100+ races per year, Rogers says he still can’t wait to fire up the engines.
David Rogers (left) talks with Tim Russell after the Lakeland race.
Saturday at Lakeland, Rogers raced to an impressive third-place finish after starting 16th. One important trait, learned from years behind the wheel, is patience.
“Starting back where I did, you’ve got to be patient. That’s my style of racing,” said Rogers. “In the last race, we got up and led a lot of the race, ran with the front guys – I can do that. We can still keep up.
“We were all over Timmy [Russell]. His stuff was way more used up than mine was. We ran him down from probably half a straightaway back. We were all over him but Timmy’s running in the points deal. Timmy and I always race each other clean and I could’ve touched him. But as loose as he was, he probably would’ve spun and I didn’t want that. He was going to race me hard and I was going to race him hard, to try and get that spot.
“As long as I enjoy this stuff I’m going to keep doing it – and I enjoy it. Even when we run badly, I know that the setup of the car, or if I’m off or whatever it happens to be, I just love racing. It’s a shame we don’t get to race more in Central Florida. But that’s how it is. We used to race 40-50 races a year – I couldn’t do that now but we’ll just run when we can and try to keep the fans happy. It’ll keep me happy, too.”
KEENE WINS GOODYEAR CHALLENGE SERIES 100
Daniel Keene Jr., of Weeki Wachee, Fla., won the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader in Lakeland – a 100-lap show for the Goodyear Challenge Series. Darren Brown was second followed by points leader Doug Moff, A.J. Currelli and Kevin Macy in fifth place. Super Late Model race winner Travis Cope competed in both races and led the Goodyear Challenge Series feature until a missed shift on a lap 65 restart caused a pileup on the front straightaway and knocked him out of contention.
Goodyear Challenge Series Late Models will be back in action Sept. 22 at Columbia Motorsports Park near Lake City, Fla.