Saturday, November 6, 2010

AMA Flat Track: Joe Kopp Retirement Release from AMA Pro Flat Track


Joe Kopp, the '00 AMA Flat Track Grand National Champion, sits in his pit area at the Lima Half Mile round of the AMA Pro Flat Track K&N Filters presented by Motorcycle Grand National Championship Series in late June of this year. Kopp was riding his Lloyd Brothers/American Agip-sponsored Ducati 1098, thusly his long-trusted Latus H-D XR sits beside him while he talks with the fans.
Kopp went back to the trusty XR for the half mile events in Lake Odessa and Hagerstown (where he won both!) and also at the West Coast round at Calistoga, where he ultimately ended up finishing in the seventh spot after having to win his semi to qualify for the main event. Smokin Joe's crash in turn one in his heat race is still clear in fan's minds when the swingarm pivot bolt broke, causing him to lowside into the airfence. Thankfully he wasn't hurt badly and Joe went on to finish second in the final year-end standings to 2010 AMA Flat Track Grand National Champion Jake Johnson and the Zanotti Racing team.
The 2010 season in AMA Flat Track was really all about change, and overall it was accepted AND displayed at a very high level. Not only did the series see added venues, but new promoters that came on board and knew how to sell the sport, new blood in the series in terms of the equipment and rules packages, and a much-tighter and entertaining show that helped to keep the fans interested throughout the season. And in terms of attendance, the people are starting to come back to see the show. Many venues, and not just the usually well-attended one's run by the IMDA, showed signs of good attendance, if not sell-outs (both new Arizona events.) And safety has also been stepped up for the series, as well. AMA Flat Track Manager Mike Kidd is the man behind the turnaround, and the series is more healthy then it's ever been as a result of his vision for the sport.
Look for more and even BETTER things in the upcoming season(s) as AMA Pro Flat Track goes further into the new decade with the best show on wheels. With new winners Ducati and Kawasaki, the return of Triumph to the series, and new and updated entries in the form of KTM, BMW and Suzuki, the series is breathing life into a sport that has captivated fans for over five decades, but who had as well felt the downturn in the sport, let alone the downturn in the economy. With entertainment at a premium now and a slicker, more polished show to be seen, the fans are returning and the action has also taken a BIG step forward.
Like I have been saying for the better part of the year now, this ISN'T your father's AMA Flat Track anymore. And I, among many others, are thrilled at the new look and feel of The Rolling Thunder Show!

I just wanted to take the time to post this press release from AMA Pro Flat Track, and thank them for taking the time to display one of my shots. Originally posted back in early July, the shot above is one I took in the pit area during the Lima Half Mile event at the end of June, with Joe Kopp talking to the fans during the pitwalk that afternoon.

It also really made me feel like some of this stuff I have been putting out here on Stu's Shots has been helping and maybe even making a difference in the sport, especially after I received an e-mail from AMA Flat Track Manager and '81 AMA Flat Track Grand National Champion Mike Kidd. I can say without a doubt that he has always been one of my all-time heroes of the sport, and seeing him win the Terre Haute Half Mile in August of '75 solidified that feeling even more for a 'then' kid of 18 years old. MK mentioned how he thought this 'was a great shot' and how he felt that I had been doing a great job in 'catching all the elements of the GNC series' this year.

WOW--thanks Mike, and thanks for taking the time to check out Stu's Shots. And thanks for getting this thing turned around in the great sport of AMA Flat Track!

To note, the shot I posted above is one of Stu's Shots, but just to be clear the other shots that are attached to this press release from AMA Flat Track are NOT. I just want to make sure no one thinks that I would try to take credit for something I wasn't a part of. That's not my way of operating and I try to make sure that that is always clear with everyone who takes the time to come by and check us out.

Thanks as well to everyone who takes time out of their busy day to come by and check us out here at Stu's Shots. We always appreciate it!

2010 AMA Pro Header


Joe Kopp

The Man! The Machine! The Family Man!

His Retirement!

What a career you had! Is it hard for you to believe the days of chasing a championship title is over?

Yea it really is, but I think I'm ready. I have known all year long, but my biggest question was am I going to go out with the # 1 plate. Having that # 1 plate to take home would have even made it easier for me to retire. But yea, I am sure I will still be chasing some racing title doing something, just not full time GNC racing.

Most riders turn expert at around 17-18 years old, you first turned expert in 1991 at the age of 22. Why the late start?

I was always into the off-road scene, such as local hare scrambles and x-country races, but I would ocassional throw a leg over a bike at the local flattrack races. I remember when I was about 12 one of my first dirt track bikes was an old Yamaha RD250 twin two-stroke and that dang thing about killed me. Then I went to a Maico 490 then a KX500, which both had stock frames. I guess I learned some serious throttle control on those bikes. But I just really enjoyed racing off-road in my younger years, plus my cousins and I grew up here in Mica (WA) at the base of the mountains and trails were everywhere, so thats what we learned to ride. I always said, if they ever throw a log or some sort of obstacle in the straight at the Springfield mile, those boys are gonna get a good whoopin' . Then a few years after highschool a couple of local guys let me ride a Champion framed 250 liquid cooled Cr250 Honda at a local race and that was probably the first real flattrack framed bike I ever rode. I was like, damn, these things actually handle when you put a good chassis where they can hooke up. That year I also got my pro-am license and off we went. So yea I got a late start in flattrack, but at the same time it probably helped me out by not getting burned out at an early age.

At what time in your career did you realize you were good enough to win the Grand National Championship series?

I don't know that I ever thought I was good enough to win the title before I actually won it. I've never been a real confident person, like when some people get beat on ten times in row at the races and they still think they are still better than you. I was never like that, however I knew that if I ever got a bunch of confidence from winning a few races or just running up front, then these boys were gonna be in trouble. I have always been pretty confident with my racing, but to have confidence to win at the GNC level versus confidence to just qualify for a main is a whole different thing. It takes forever to build confidence but only an instant to loose it all! But over the last several years I have learned a few tricks.... but I ain't gonna tell! ha-ha






Throughout your career you have probably raced more different brands of motorcycles than anyone on the series. What did winning the Mile at Prescott, AZ on the Ducati mean to you personally?

You know winning the Arizona Mile on the Ducati didn't really mean that much to me at the moment. I don't think I realized the importance of it until the weeks following, then I was amazed at what it stirred up. It was truely awesome and I am very proud to be a part of it. I just have always liked to take on new challenges in my career.

You achieved the flat track Grand Slam by winning short track, TT, Half Mile and Mile. Which discipline did you feel you were the most competitive and why?

I would say TT's are my favorite to ride, but I think I am the most competetive on the 1/2 miles. I really don't care if the track is a cushion or clay, I just feel I can adapt to most different conditions faster than the other riders. I think that the slicker or more technical a track gets plays into my cards. I really feel comfortable in situations when you are trying to find every last bit of traction and not just wacking the throttle wide open and going for it. At the same time I have always liked to prove myself on different types of race tracks.

The commitment and challenges to race at your level had to have been overwhelming at times. Was there any other time before now you thought about hanging up the steel shoe?

For the last few years it was just getting harder and harder to make a full comittment each week. But even when I was down on my results, I always had GREAT people around me that kept me going. My family, sponsors and friends I had around me is what allowed me to stay competitive.

You became a crowd favorite at more than your fair share of races with the longest autograph lines. Why do you think the fans picked you as their favorite rider?

I have always made it a point to really try and be fan friendly with the fans but more importantly with the kids at the races and I think that really started to show in the last couple of years. I have young kids at home and I know how much they look up to a racer such as myself, so if you take the time and chat with them while signing an autograph, you would be amazed with what kind of memory it leaves with that yound child. I've always believed, you should treat someone the way you would like to be treated. Pretty simple really. I just always wanted to be known as a good guy on and off the track and I feel like I have accomplished that.

Although you announced your retirement, you also stated there will be a couple times you may get the bikes dusted off to hit some races next year. Any idea which events you may plan to attend?

I'm thinking somewhere like Daytona and maybe the Springfield TT since those were always two of my favorites. Plus I would like to do something like Pikes Peak ,maybe a few Endurocrosses, or what ever else comes along that would be fun to do.

It appeared during your announcement speech at the awards ceremony it all was becoming a reality. That must have been tough.

I knew it was going to be tough! I really could not even think too much about it in the days leading up to the awards ceremony without getting choked up. There were so many more things I wanted to say but I couldn't because I just was not able to talk. I wanted to congratulate Jake and his crew because I saw how hard they worked all year. I also wanted to thank all of my fans, friends and sponsors over the years. It was an emotional moment, but I guess people understood just what flattrack has meant to me over the years. It is and has been my life and my family's life!

The saying goes...behind every great man, is a great woman. How has Deedee played a role in your racing?

Where do I start? DeeDee has always played a major role in my career. Non stop, week in and week out she has helped me through the good and bad times. Now it's time for me to join her in doing things she loves to do like horse back riding or what ever she has planned. For years we have talked about maybe getting into team roping together. All I can say, if that is the direction we want to go.... those cowboys better watch out. DeeDee gets as serious as I do when it comes to being competitve. I really look forward to all the new things we will do together.

Are the kids and Deedee ready to have you home?

This is something we have all discussed over time, so I think everyone is ready. With all the traveling we have done over the years we will probably get ants in our pants to get back on the road and go somewhere. I don't see us just sitting home.

Many sports figures have a hard time adjusting after retiring. How is Joe Kopp going to handle the slower pace and less stress?

I'm not sure if I will slow down that much as I have lots of ideas. I can't financially retire, so I will need to find something fun and rewarding to do. But yea, I am not sure about less stress or slower pace, but I would say that safer is more like the word for the job I am looking for. ha-ha

Any regrets along the way that stands out?

I have no regrets along the way. Sure there are the things here or there that you think about, but really I have had such a GREAT time out there racing full time on the AMA GNC circuit, I would not trade it for anything! There were some battles on the track that were maybe left unfinished, but ya know what comes around goes around in my book. I love good carma and bad carma! ha-ha

Congratulations on your successful racing career and we look forward to seeing you with your induction into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

WOW! The Hall of Fame would be amazing! I'm not sure if I will fall into that group, but if I do, I guess that would be like winning another championship. Thank you!









As a subscriber to this newsletter you will receive information on a regular basis. As the 2010 AMA Pro Flat Track Season draws near we may send you exciting news and announcements regarding that season on a more frequent basis.


Here's the kink to the same press release over at Larry Lawrence's great site, The Rider Great stuff as always coming from one of the long-time contributors and gurus of the great sport of motorcycle racing!


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