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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Doug Pace: Joe Kopp offers motorcycle riding course for all abilities

Joe Kopp and his son Kody, then 5, kick up a little dust on their dirt track located behind their Mica, Washington, home in  2010. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Joe Kopp and his son Kody, then 5, kick up a little dust on their dirt track located behind their Mica, Washington, home in 2010. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Driving schools for current and aspiring racers have been a mainstay of motorsports for many years.

Here in the Inland Northwest, Stateline Speedway offers a program using late model cars similar to those running in its Saturday night division. Taught by experienced drivers and maintained by crews with an equal amount of expertise, the schools are a popular way to try out the sport without making a huge financial commitment.

Schools and trainers for motorcycle riders are harder to come by in this area. One of American Motorcycle Association’s greatest flat-track riders, Joe Kopp, has developed a school to fill this gap and it makes its first appearance of the season on Saturday at Spokane Speedway.

When it comes to instructors with vast experience in their particular discipline, there is no greater AMA rider in the form of Kopp. The Mica native has amassed championships, won plenty of prestigious AMA flat-track races, led race teams since his retirement at the end of the 2010 season and has been a track promoter of indoor and outdoor facilities.

Any rider attending a session with Kopp is bound to gain something in return for the time spent at the track. Skill levels vary, something Kopp sees as a plus for his riding school.

“This class is not just for racers as it is pointed at ways to learn how to gain control and confidence in (the riders’) motorcycle and make it work for them, not against them,” Kopp said. “Beginners, amateur, experts, dirt, street, adventure riders, flat-trackers, motocross or just trail riding, this class will improve riders’ skills and help them take their riding to the next level.”

Stepped goals over the course of the session are geared to each rider.

“Many of the students have made huge improvements in just one 4-hour class,” Kopp said.

Classes are open for all ages and experiences. Sessions begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Spokane Speedway. Info: TheSecretsofSpeed.com or (509) 994-3613.

Northwest series begins

The Northwest Super Late Model Series kicks off its season Saturday with the running of the Leonard Evans 150 at Wenatchee Valley’s Super Oval.

Entering its fourth year of competition, the championship chase will be wide-open as three-time titleholder, Garrett Evans, announced during the offseason that he would not compete on a week-to-week basis.

With Evans off the series full time, one driver who may benefit is Medical Lake’s Braeden Havens. The reigning Idaho 200 champion finished runner-up to Evans in the 2016 championship standings and his Killer “B” Racing team fields a newly built super late model for the series.

“The schedule starts off with two good tracks for us in Wenatchee and Spokane County Raceway,” Havens said. “This team has had good runs there and if we take care of business, by the third race we could be in a good position to challenge for the championship.”

This year’s championship payout is more than $26,000 in cash and prizes to eligible drivers. The season is a nine-race marathon stretching from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and new this year, a shootout with the SRL Southwest Series in Salt Lake City.

Two of this year’s events will be contested at Spokane County Raceway (May 20 and July 29).

The season is built around one-day race formats, a departure from the last few years. With the change has come increased interest from across the Northwest and from those in the greater Spokane area.

Local’s David Garber and Joey Bird join Havens in the 26-car NWSLMS opener.

Garber, who competed at Wenatchee’s local Pro Late Model season opener two weeks ago, driving for the Russ Osborne team, has been a threat in NWSLSM competition throughout his career. This will be Garber’s first start of the season behind the wheel of his super late model.

Bird has been successful in his brief NWSLMS career, having a breakout season in 2015 when he put together several solid efforts, including a top-three run in the Idaho 200. Bird raced across the West Coast last season with impressive results, including a top-three finish at the Las Vegas Bullring’s Fall Classic.

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