Professional AMA flat-track motorcycle rider Joe Kopp and fellow 41-year-old Brett Favre have something in common besides their age.
Both desire to compete and win championships in a younger man’s sport.
Kopp, the Inland Empire’s lone professional motorsports star, heads to Arizona Saturday looking for a championship to close out a stellar career. No matter the outcome, Kopp has made it clear that it’s time to hang up the rider’s boots and move beyond the grind of racing one of America’s toughest circuits.
Kopp has won several titles in the past, his most prestigious being the 2000 AMA 750 Grand National championship. Having led most of this season’s rider standings chasing a second 750 crown, Kopp fell back by 10 points a few weeks ago with his only “did not finish” of the year.
“Making up 10 points is something that’s totally possible,” Kopp said. “It all comes down to one race in Prescott. I won there in the spring and it’s definitely something I think we can do again.”
The pressure to win the title is the same as when the season started.
“Retirement is definitely in my plans, whether I can win the championship or not this year,” Kopp said. “If I win the No. 1 plate (awarded to the championship rider) it will make it that much easier in my book.”
Often times that ride has come aboard a different motorcycle each week. Adapting to the nuances of a Ducati, Honda and Harley Davidson at any given race venue has been a fun challenge, Kopp said.
“The switch from the three different bikes (each one is chosen based on tuning, size of track and other factors) has been a challenge,” he said. “They all handle and act totally different, but at the same time it has been a fun challenge for me to try and tackle.”
The drive to hunt down his second AMA national championship, regardless of what bike brings it home, has been with Kopp all season.
“Even before the season began, I felt deep down that I had that extra inner drive and motivation to try and make this year happen,” Kopp said. “My wife (Dee Dee) and I talked and our family gave me the extra time I need to train and get ready. With new bikes on the team and lots of family support, I was ready and am still ready to keep putting it all in the pot and see what happens at weekend’s end. … I knew this was probably my last year out here going around in circles full time and we seem to be having lots of fun heading into this last race.”
Inspiration from Kopp’s family to win a championship and go out on his own terms have guided the Latus Harley Davidson-backed rider to a storybook ending. Giving back to young riders, including Colbert’s Wyatt Anderson, has been a humbling part of being the sport’s top rider.
“I love to work with new riders, whether they’re young or old,” he said. “There are some local kids that are really trying their best and when I see that I really try to help them out even more. “Telling a youngster that it takes drive and never to give up, knowing that anything is possible (is something I coach). Most important is to dream big and dig deep.”
Kopp appreciates his good fortune and is ready to move on.
“I have had a great ride,” he said. “My wife and kids mean the world to me and I’ve had my fun, but now it’s time to enjoy doing the things they like to do. Plus find a safer job!”