ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Derrike Cope is like a punch-drunk boxer who doesn't know when to throw in the towel.
Less than two months ago, he crashed at full speed into the first-turn wall at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway one of the hardest impacts measured by NASCAR's data recorders all year and now he's behind the wheel again.
He broke his left leg, tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament and broke his wrist. To him, it's all in a day's work.
''I've been through some peril and pain before, so I'm used to it,'' he said.
Cope plans to finish the season driving the No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge on the Winston Cup Series. If that doesn't materialize into a full-time job for 2003, he hopes it opens the door at another team.
The pain of rehabilitation is nothing, he said, compared to not racing again. If he can't get back in the fast lane soon, all the hard work and scars would have been a waste of time.
''It's an addiction,'' Cope said. ''You sit at home, and you can't replace the feeling that you get when you sit in that car. It's something that's every part of your being. I've done it for 20-something years. You can't replace it. There's nothing else you can do to physically replace what this is about. It's tough to live without this. It's so difficult to put down.''
HELP WANTED: Ultra/Evern ham Motorsports announced its driver, Casey Atwood, would not be fired during the final three races of the Winston Cup Series season.
The strange release was an answer to several published re ports that Atwood would move into the No. 27 Brewco Motor sports Chevrolet on the Busch Series a car being driven by Jamie McMurray and that Kevin Lepage would finish the year in the No. 7 Dodge in Winston Cup.
At the same time, Herzog-Jackson Motorsports said it was bringing back Todd Bodine as driver for the No. 92 Chevrolet on the Busch Series for the last three races, starting with Saturday's Sam's Club 200 at North Carolina.
PIT STOPS: Greg Biffle, who is closing in on the Busch Series championship, will drive the No. 44 Dodge for Petty Enterprises in Sunday's Winston Cup Series race at North Carolina. ... Next year's Budweiser Shootout all-star race will be under the lights at the Daytona International Speed way on Feb. 9.
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