Years from now, when dirt track disciples delve into history to seek out the year that Joe Kopp's racing career kicked into high gear, the months of August and September in the year 2000 will likely be pinned down as the actual shift point.
After scoring seven podium finishes including one win in his last seven AMA starts, Kopp ventured home to the Pacific Northwest to do battle in the Formula USA/Wrenchead.com National Dirt Track Series. Proving that his awesome podium run knows no sanctioning body boundaries, the Corbin Racing/H-D of Missouri-backed Washingtonian scored a popular win on the cushion mile racetrack at Emerald Downs, leading most of the laps to earn his first career Formula USA win to the delight of the soldout grandstand crowd on September 16.
Kopp led the majority of the first 10-lap segment aboard his Dennis Town-tuned Suzuki TL1000, and then, after a "pit stop" break in the action that allowed the track crew to maintain the racing surface, he engaged in a drafting war with Las Vegas Harley-Davidson/KK Motorcycle Supply's Geo Roeder II. That war came to an end when Roeder's mount broke a few laps before the finish, allowing Kopp to cruise to victory, well ahead of Wrenchead.com/H-D of Sacramento's Chris Carr and Bartels H-D/Corbin/VHT's Jay Springsteen. Kopp's win was somewhat historic, as it marked the first time that a Suzuki TL1000-based SuperTracker had defeated the mighty Harley-Davidson XR750s.
"I came in here saying to myself that I wasn't even going to practice on my Harley and that I was just going to concentrate on the Suzuki," Kopp said. "If it didn't work, it didn't work, but I was going to try and make it work. I was just hoping for a top-five finish, but to win with it... I never expected to win with it. To win with it means a lot to me."
Carr, the reigning national champion, actually improved from fifth in the first leg to take the runner-up spot in the second leg, even after suffering possible ligament damage to his left knee during the first 10 laps.
Springsteen's third-place finish came at the expense of Rogers Lake Racing/Custom Chrome's Gary Rogers, as the veteran and former AMA Grand National Champion capitalized on mistakes made by Rogers on the last lap to get a run on him and beat him to the line by less than a wheel and steal the spot.
Despite the major concerns over the racing surface for the past two years that a race has been run at Emerald Downs, there was only one minor accident during the night's racing, with no serious injuries reported. The National class did only feature a 12-rider main event, however, with the remaing six spots being paid and pointed to the first six in the LCQ, with the rest of the point tallies being adjusted accordingly.
The Pro Singles were exhibition-only at Emerald Downs. For the second week in a row, BBRP/Circle F rider Dan Stanley scored a convincing win on his new Suzuki DRZ400-based machine. Team Powell/West Bend Harley-Davidson's J.R. Schnabel was second, with Lynwood Racing/Thor rider Jeff Annen coming in third.
Here are the results from the Emerald Downs event along with the current series points standings:
NATIONAL (20 laps; 12 riders): 1. Joe Kopp (Suz); 2. Chris Carr (H-D); 3. Jay Springsteen (H-D); 4. Gary Rogers (H-D); 5. Kenny Coolbeth (Suz); 6. J.R. Schnabel (H-D); 7. Jason Tyer (H-D); 8. Jess Roeder (H-D); 9. Dan Stanley (Rtx); 10. Bryan Smith (Rtx); 11. Shawn Russell (H-D); 12. Geo Roeder II (H-D).
FORMULA USA/WRENCHEAD.COM NATIONAL DIRT TRACK SERIES POINTS STANDINGS: 1. Chris Carr (458/1 win); 2. J.R. Schnabel (395); 3. Jay Springsteen (384); 4. Gary Rogers (362); 5. Dan Stanley (299); 6. Joe Kopp (280/1); 7. Jason Tyer (278); 8. Mike Hacker (254); 9. Geo Roeder II (253); 10. Kenny Coolbeth (249); 11. Rich King (248/3); 12. Terry Poovey (216/1); 13. Will Davis (198/1); 14. (TIE) Michael Varnes (188)/Willie McCoy (188); 16. Shawn Russell (182); 17. Greg Tysor (176); 18. (TIE) Beau Brown (164)/Don Wilson (164); 20. Johnny Murphree (160).