Joe Kopp was an accomplished motorcycle rider on the track winning a coveted No. 1 plate when he claimed the American Motorcyclist Association Grand National Flat Track championship in 2000.
Three other times he was runner-up in the top level of dirt track racing nationally and eight times in the last 13 years he was in the top five in points.
Now the Mica-born and current Valleyford resident hopes to translate the success he had racing to promoting events at his newly named Spokane Speedway motorcycle track in Airway Heights.
Joe Kopp in the tower at his new motorcycle racing venture, Spokane Speedway at the Motorsports Complex in Airway Heights. Racing begins Wednesday, May 16.
Photo by Paul Delaney
The 42-year-old married father took over operation of the former Diamond A Motorplex, located in the Spokane Motorsports Complex ORV Park earlier this spring and will launch a program of flat track racing under the lights on the quarter-mile oval Wednesday nights, starting May 16.
The track was constructed in 2011 by Colbert resident Mark Anderson. Since Anderson went into a new business venture he did not have time to manage both.
“Mark contacted me a month or so ago and said he was contemplating not running it,” Kopp said. “I just let it pass in one ear and out the other and didn’t think much about it.”
After Kopp checked out what kind of support was available he said, “Yeah, I’ll do it. Now that I’ve accepted it and dug into it I kind of want to make it bigger and better.”
Kopp’s name has helped out in dealing with the motorcycle industry. He’s contacted potential sponsors like Northern Quest Casino, Dave Smith and others – “people that aren’t familiar with who Joe Kopp is” – trying to make it big.
In an effort to toss a different spin on local racing, Kopp plans to run his events Wednesday nights
Weekends are all plenty busy with other activities. “The way I look at it on weekends in the summertime, the average person who is not a motorcycle person, or a motorsports fanatic, is either going to be at the lake or the mountains,” Kopp said.
Kopp also faces the challenge of knowing that his sport, locally at least, is more participant-oriented. “We need to get the non-motorsports people out there,” he said.
He will offer $5 general admission and plans to bring in bleacher seating, choosing to not rely on last year’s tailgating practice where spectators parked their cars on a berm along the track.
Because he will race on Wednesday nights, Kopp plans to build his business on local riders of both motorcycles and 4-wheelers. He will be able to use his relationships to attract some of his AMA flat track buddies to stop by as they travel back and forth across the nation on the national circuit.
Joe Kopp in his former life as a competitor on the AMA Grand National Flat Track circuit. Conbributed photo from Joe Kopp.
Renting portable lights, Kopp said night racing is designed to appeal to fans and make life easier on him from the track preparation standpoint. Racing at nighttime will also mean less maintenance.
Kopp rode the track quite a few times last year.
“It’s a loose surface, it’s what they call a cushion, kind of a go anywhere track.” He said. “Some of the tracks are clay which is a follow-the-leader,” Kopp explained. To pass, a rider generally has to wait for the bike ahead of thenm to make a mistake.
This surface is totally unique in the Northwest. The surface is sand, the only one north of Salinas, Calif. The area was last used about 15 years ago as a sand drag racing area in the ORV Park.
Racing classes include everything from kids to seniors and pros.
“I’m trying to get a motocross class going too and have local guys go out there and have some grudge matches,” Kopp said. “It looks like we’ll be doing quads – I’m still working with insurance on that,” Kopp said.
“I had the lawnmower racing club contact me and they’re wanting to do something,” Kopp said. He plans to build a smaller track on the infield for the riding mowers.
Further information on the track can be found at www.SpokaneSpeedway.com.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.