Joe Kopp sees the upcoming doubleheader AMA Progressive Insurance Flat Track Championship weekend as perhaps one of the most pivotal of the season. The 2000 AMA Grand National Champion from Mica, Washington, is second in the series standings coming into the weekend that will feature a short track Grand National at Atomic Speedway in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on Friday, June 25, and then move north to Ohio, and the famous Allen County Fairgrounds Half-mile in Lima, on June 26.
Defending AMA Grand National Champion Chris Carr, of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, has sprinted out to a 23-point lead after five rounds. Carr has two wins and is gunning for his sixth AMA Grand National title. The big question is how the rest of the field is going to close the gap on Carr as the series moves into the long, hot summer.
“That’s something I’ve been trying to figure out,” admitted Kopp, who has scored three top-five finishes to pull into second. “I’m just going to keep plugging away and see how it goes. These two races could be critical. The one in Tennessee is a short track so anything can happen. And then I think I have a good shot at Lima. I won there last year, so hopefully things will fall into place for us there.”
Kopp sees one other possibility that may allow the field to close the gap on Carr’s series lead.
“With a 23-point lead Chris may get a little conservative,” Kopp explained. “That’s what we’re all hoping for anyway, that he tries to protect his lead a little bit. I know I’m going to go all out at these two rounds to try to get within shooting distance of him. Otherwise he’s going to be in a position that’s going to make it really tough for anyone to catch him.”
Atomic Speedway is a new venue in the series. The race will be a featured event during the popular Honda Hoot motorcycle rally. The track is a banked 1/3-mile red clay oval billed as the fastest 1/3-mile in the country. Atomic is hosting its first AMA Grand National event; it also marks the first time the Knoxville area has hosted the premier motorcycle dirt track racing series in over 20 years.
The Grand National caravan will haul up I-75 late Friday night and into Saturday to make it to the classic Lima crushed limestone half-mile on Saturday afternoon. Lima is one of those traditional Midwestern dirt track events held at a fairground that brings in thousands of fans from the across the region, primarily by motorcycle.
While Kopp is the defending Lima winner, Carr is the most successful active rider at the track having won four nationals there dating back to 1991.
To pre-order tickets for the AMA Grand National at Atomic Speedway call Martha Walker at (865) 947-7670 or visit www.atomicspeedway.com. Tickets can also be purchased at Knoxville area Honda motorcycle dealers. For Lima call (419) 991-1491 or visit www.ohionationalchampionship.com.