Former AMA Grand National Champion Joe Kopp said that he is “not quite ready for the season yet,” as he is still healing from the hand injuries received in the Sedalia, Missouri, Half Mile crash that also claimed the life of popular privateer Will Davis last season. Kopp had more surgery to repair the muscle damage in his right palm as recently as December 7.
My left hand is pretty good,” Kopp said. “But my right palm is still pretty sore. I rode my first race this past weekend, a local short track, and I was only able to go about seven or eight laps before I had to slow down because it really started to bother me.”
Kopp said that he knows he isn’t ready for a 25-lap Grand National just yet, but he is confident that he will be ready in time for the AMA/Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championships season opener at Daytona Municipal Stadium in March. Kopp finished second to Davis at the 2001 edition of the Short Track.
At the surgery before this last one, the doctor told me that he expected the nerves in my hand to heal, but instead they got worse, so on this last surgery, he did it like a Carpal Tunnel surgery,“ Kopp said. “He told me that it would take at least six weeks before it was better, and it has been about five weeks. It is getting better.”
Kopp said that he has been trying to train a little as his condition has improved, including activities such as snowmobiling, hunting and running in his schedule.
“My wife Dee Dee ran in the Seattle Marathon a few weeks back, and I went along to run with her,” Kopp said. “I joined her starting at mile 19, and I was supposed to run along with her for moral support. But heck, I hadn’t run for a while, and it wasn’t too long before I was the one needing the moral support [laughs]. I like doing my miles on my Harley.”
Speaking of motorcycles, Kopp also said that he and Corbin Racing/Burks Motorsports teammate Kenny Coolbeth have cut a deal with KTM that will see their 505cc efforts KTM-powered. This will mark the second time that Kopp has been a factory rider for the Austrian firm, having ridden KTMs at Peoria and Daytona in 1998 and ‘99.
“I’ve always kind of stayed associated with them,” Kopp said. “They’re real easy to deal with. Their new 520 engine actually displaces 510cc, so we’re going to shorten the stroke to get them to 505cc. Dennis Town is building the bikes, and we’re also going to have 450cc engines for the Formula USA series. I’m excited to be back with them. The Rotax motor might still be tough to beat, but a lot of people are trying new combinations. I always did well on my KTM at Daytona.”