NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. – The only thing that gave Travis Cope trouble Saturday night was the post-race burnout.
The 25-year from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., backed it into the inside wall while attempting to smoke the tires in celebration. But he was still all smiles as they pushed his Super Late Model into Victory Lane at New Smyrna Speedway following his dominating win in the 28th annual Red-Eye 100.
Cope took the lead from Daniel Keene Jr. on lap 41 Saturday and led the rest of the way in the 100-lap race on the banked half-mile asphalt oval. Keene battled back to finish second after dropping out of the top five, and was followed across the line by 2010 race winner Rich Clouser.
“The restarts at the end actually helped us,” said Cope. “On short runs, the car was pretty good.”
The race marked the first event of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series calendar. It is also the first race in the track’s Super Late Model Triple Crown series. Last year, Cope finished 10th in the Red-Eye 100 but won the Triple Crown with runner-up finishes in the next two races.
“It’s very cool to open up the season like this,” Cope said. “Last year, we came here and got wrecked, and still won the Triple Crown. This year, it’s just a better start to the year. I’m looking forward to this season.”
Spencer Davis and Anthony Sergi rounded out the top five. Defending track champion David Rogers finished sixth, followed by TJ Duke, Denver Foran, Michael Atwell and Brandon Booth.
Cope set fast time in qualifying earlier in the day, but redrew third starting position. Cope stalked Keene as the race went green for the first 72 laps. Just before the halfway mark, he was able to make his move.
“In the beginning of the race, Daniel Keene had a really fast car so I just tried to get behind him and see what he had,” said Cope. “About the middle of the race, he started backing up to us. And luckily, our car really didn’t slow down that much.”
Keene had a shot at Cope on a pair of restarts in the final 10 laps but each time Cope was able to get away.
“I tried,” Keene said. “If I could have, I would have definitely would have tried to stay right there on his bumper to get him to slip up a little. But he was extremely good tonight. All in all, we had a good car, but he was just extremely good.”
The next two races in the Triple Crown series will be the Pete Orr/Orange Blossom 100 on Jan. 18 and the inaugural Bruce Gowland Memorial 100 on Feb. 11. The final race will conclude the track’s 48th Annual World Series of Stock Car Racing, a week of racing that will include the inaugural NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at New Smyrna on Feb. 16.
Cope is the son of Mike Cope, two-time (1994 and ’96) champion of the former NASCAR Slim Jim All-Pro Series.