DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It took Joe Kopp 16 years to do it, but he finally earned his first career AMA Grand National short track victory and as far as the Latus Harley-Davidson Honda mounted rider is concerned it couldn’t have come at a better track. For Kopp his win Thursday night at Daytona’s Municipal Stadium gave him a career dirt track Grand Slam (victories on mile, half-mile, TT and short track circuits).
Kopp led nearly the entire 25-lap main, being challenged the entire way by Bettencourt Honda’s Kenny Coolbeth, who led briefly during the middle stages of the race. Henry Wiles, who won Wednesday’s leg of the Daytona doubleheader series opener, finished third and leaves Daytona with the series lead.
It marks the first time in Wiles’ career that he’s led the series standings.
“It’s taken me a long time to get that first short track win,” Kopp said. “I didn’t know if I was going to retire before getting one or not. Today I didn’t have it going from the get-go, but I’ve worked hard all winter to be able to overcome stuff like this and it paid off in a big way. With five [laps] to go I thought there was no way I could hold on to this, but here we are and it feels great.”
Coolbeth was happy with his runner-up finish, especially considering his normal tough luck at Daytona.
“This place usually gives me fits,” said the defending AMA Grand National Twin Champion. “I had a good race and had a chance to win. Joe kept making little mistakes and then I would of the same, but at the end Joe was just a little too fast.”
Wiles joked on the podium saying that Kopp gave him an elbow when he passed.
“It’s all good though,” said Wiles, who had a hard run in with Kopp on Wednesday. “That’s racing at Daytona for you.”
JR Schnabel was fourth on the Memphis Shades Yamaha and Jared Mees rounded out the top five riding a Pro Honda Oils Honda.
Kopp’s margin of victory was 0.373-seconds. It marked Honda’s first victory on the Daytona Short Track since Danny Ingram’s victory in 1993.
Up next at Daytona International Speedway is the SunTrust Moto-GT two-hour race and the historic Daytona 200 By Honda on Friday night. Tickets are available at the gate and more information is available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
1. Joe Kopp, Honda.
2. Kenny Coolbeth, Honda.
3. Henry Wiles, Kawasaki.
4. JR Schnabel, Yamaha.
5. Jared Mees, Honda.
6. Sammy Halbert, Yamaha.
7. Jake Johnson, Suzuki.
8. Jethro Halbert, Honda.
9. Brandan Bergen, Honda.
10. Don Taylor, Suzuki.
11. Michael Kirkness, Suzuki.
12. John Lewis, Kawasaki.
13. Brayn Smith, Kawasaki.
14. Matt Weidman, Honda.
15. Luke Gough, Honda.
16. Brandon Robinson, Suzuki.
17. Joshua Koch, Honda.
18. Robert Pearson, Yamaha.
19. Nick Cummings, Honda.