In 2011, Joe Kopp settled into life as a retired racer, running events for fun with the same gusto as in the heyday of his American Motorcycle Association flat-track championships.
Participating in selected races a few times a year still allows Kopp the opportunity to keep up with the nuances of the sport as he prepares to take his 12-year-old son, Kody, into AMA racing.
In addition, focusing on family and other racing endeavors has on occasion opened doors for Kopp to take part in high-profile AMA events, including this weekend’s Harley-Davidson Sacramento (California) Mile. The Mica native will take the seat of AMA champion “King” Kenny Roberts’ famed Yamaha TZ750, the bike that won the 1975 AMA Indy Mile with Roberts as its rider.
Roberts, one of only four riders in AMA history to win the Grand Slam – representing wins at mile, half-mile, short-track, TT and road race events –teams with his son Kenny Roberts Jr., one of MotoGP’s most illustrious riders, as the grand marshals of the Sacramento race. When race organizers planned events to honor the Roberts family, having the TZ750 take part in the prerace festivities, with Kopp riding the bike, picked up speed.
“One of the race promoters called and asked me to do some Legend autograph signings with Roberts and his son, which I said I’d be happy to do,” Kopp said. “Then he asked me if I would ride the Roberts bike during opening ceremonies and I said, ‘Heck, yeah,’ as I heard that the bike was a beast and I’ve always wanted to give one a go. It should be fun.”
Don’t expect Kopp to stop competing anytime soon. The AMA icon is not ready to hang up the helmet for good and become a racing ambassador similar to the Roberts family.
“I don’t feel like I’m the next in line to be an ambassador for our sport,” Kopp said. “I’m still kind of in the current race scene, even though I’m not (racing) full time but just running local Pro and outlaw races around the country from time to time.”
Weekend promises delight for fans
Motorsports options across the region this weekend provide plenty of variety for fans of all ages and interests.
From go-kart action on the clay oval at Sunset Speedway, road course karting at the Spokane Kart Racing Association, the Northwest Super Late Model Series at Spokane County Raceway’s half-mile and Stateline Speedway’s second Mud Bog race of the season, fans’ speed thrills can be fulfilled this weekend.
Stateline kicks things off with its Friday night Mud Bogs as drivers compete on a 200-foot course. Featuring drivers from across the region, Mud Bog racing is gaining in popularity for the Post Falls facility. A low-cost ticket for fans makes this one of the weekend’s best events for those looking for a new motorsport adventure.
On the heels of its NASCAR K&N Pro Series and Northwest Pro 4 Alliance events, Spokane County Raceway’s half-mile hosts its third consecutive weekend of tour racing action.
The Northwest Super Late Model Series makes the first of two Spokane appearances this season with the running of Saturday’s Park Model Homes 125. As a promotion, SCR is offering half-price grandstand admission to any fan presenting a ticket stub from last weekend’s NASCAR event.
Leading the local charge will be Joey Bird, who finished second in the series season opener followed by Braeden Havens in third. Dirk Bennett, Jason O’Neil and Kameron McKeehan will also be out to defend home turf.
Sunset Speedway runs Saturday afternoon with free admission to its spectator area. This will be the one-fifth-mile clay oval’s final day race of the season as the rest of the summer features night action under the lights.
Spokane’s road course karting facility, located next to Sunset, also features free grandstand admission for its Sunday race. Adult and junior divisions will be in action with qualifying, heats and main events on the schedule.
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