Joe Kopp set the bar to reach as one of the greatest to compete in his sport.
For nearly 20 years, Kopp, of Mica, competed at the highest levels of motorcycle racing. Amassing 23 wins on the American Motorcycle Association’s top flat-track circuits, he earned the 2000 Grand National Championship while achieving several divisional titles, multiple runner-up points finishes and other accolades that gave Kopp a lifetime of experiences.
In short, Kopp is worthy of hall of fame consideration as a professional racer.
This weekend, the first of what the 49-year old should expect will be the start of several inductions into halls of fames across the country begins with the Washington Motorcycle Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday in Seattle. A large crowd of Kopp supporters, sponsors and peers will be in attendance to laud one of the country’s top professional motorcycle racers.
When Kopp announced his retirement from professional racing in October 2010, an opportunity to join any of the levels of halls of fame he could hear from rarely crossed his mind. To Kopp, who has continued racing on occasion while also working with young riders, hall of fame nods mean taking stock of a career while facing the fact that his racing days are truly winding down.
It also opens the door for reflection on going from a kid riding the pastures, trails and byways of the Palouse to winning at some of the world’s top motorcycle facilities.
“I guess the older I get, the more I appreciate some of the accomplishments, so when they called and told me this news I was kind of bummed thinking, ‘Does this mean I’ve got one foot in the grave like most other hall of famers?’ ” Kopp said. “But really, I’m very humbled by what I was able to do and very honored to be involved in the race scene currently helping out other teams.”
Hall of fame careers are built on victories, championships and high levels of performance. For Kopp, a few of those stand out as reasons he sees the honor becoming a reality.
“My first Grand National win in Peoria, Illinois, in 1997 and my last full season in 2010 when I retired from full-time competition,” Kopp said of highlights that bookend his career. “I had more wins in 2010 than ever on the national scene and even though I ended up second in points thanks to a couple DNFs (did not finish), it felt great to go out on top like that. All the years though were quite a ride.”
Reaching the highest levels of flat-track motorcycle racing is done with the help of a solid group of tuners on the bike, good preparation, consistency and a little luck, Kopp said. Influences on one’s mind are also important, he added.
“The old saying, ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated,’ is big for me,” he said. “That has got me a long way, not only in racing, but also in life. If there’s one thing I want to be remembered by, at the track or in life, is that I was a person who always tried to do the right thing and treat everyone fair, because it’s a lot more fun when you beat them fair and square on the track.”
With his son Kody, an eighth-grader at Freeman Middle School, racing more frequently, the chance to still turn laps pops up from time to time. In Kopp’s mind, it keeps the retired racer portion of his career at bay during the laps around the track.
“With Kody getting pretty heavy into racing, I figure each time I load his bike up for a race I try and throw mine in, because dad still likes to have some fun with the fast boys on the track,” he said.
As a hall of fame rider, Kopp plans to take in all the opportunities he can get to build the sport of flat-track racing at the youngest ages. Having the reputation as being named one of the best to race helps in those moments.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with the kids, not only in flat-track, but in motorcycle riding and racing of any discipline,” he said. “I’m still doing some (development) schools and I love to see some of the kids I’ve taught over the years doing some great things on a bike (in competition).”
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