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Motorcycle racer pays tribute to fallen fan

August 08, 2010|By C.J. LOVELACE/Staff Correspondent
  • Joe Kopp
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HAGERSTOWN -- For just one night, American Motorcycle Association Grand National Expert racer Joe Kopp swapped his American flag for another red, white and blue national banner.

Standing atop the podium Saturday night at Hagerstown Speedway, Kopp proudly waved the colors of the United Kingdom in honor of British-made Triumph motorcycles and, more specifically, the bike of one rider.

David E. Kessel was a biker and AMAfan who was killed in a head-on collision while riding his Triumph bike on W.Va. 45 on July 15. Kessel was 51.

Kopp said during pre-race ceremonies that if he won, he would dedicate his victory to two of his biggest fans, Kessel and his wife Tammy, and he did just that by outdueling Kenny Coolbeth Jr. for the 25-lap Hub City Classic and its $6,000 crown at one of the longest standing stops of the AMA (Flat Track) tour.

"This British flag here celebrates the Triumph (Kessel) loved and rode," said Kopp, a Mica, Wash., native, who scored his 21st career victory with the win.

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Before the race, Kessel's wife spoke before the crowd about their love for AMA racing. She said they'd been coming to the Hagerstown race for about 15 years, even making it for their 25th wedding anniversary.

Kopp became of a member of the Kessel family of sorts on that anniversary day, when the racer said Tammy and David visited him at his trailer to tell him he was their favorite rider.

While on the victory podium Saturday night, Kopp turned toward the entire Kessel family in attendance and gave his heartfelt support.

"Thank you for coming and letting me be a part of this," he said to the family.

As for the race itself, except for a couple red-flag stoppages for falls, it was all about Kopp and Coolbeth.

The two swapped the lead countless times in the 25-lap feature, with Kopp landing the final blow on Lap 17 to regain the advantage. The eventual winner pulled away on his Harley-Davidson the final few laps to clinch it.

"That was a heck of a race," said Kopp. "I don't remember many half-miles ever on the national level where we've gone back and forth like that. ... It was fun out there."

Coolbeth came home second with about a 1.5-second advantage over third-place rider Jared Mees. Robert Pearson and Sammy Halbert rounded out the top five, both finishing more than 5 seconds off Kopp's pace.

Coolbeth said Kopp "just beat us."

"Joe's on fire," he said, adding that Kopp was just finding better lines as the track went away in the end. "He rode around me like it was nothing and gapped me there at the end."

Bryan Smith, Jake Johnson, Henry Wiles, Michael Kirkness and Brandon Robinson rounded out the top 10.

Kopp extended his GNC Twins point lead over Johnson, who recovered from an early fall to record a respectable finish.

In Pro Singles racing earlier, series points leader Jeffrey Carver Jr. rode to a one-second win over James Rispoli and Brad Baker, who came home second and third. Michael Avila and Jake Shoemaker completed the top five.

The series next heads to Peoria Race Park in Peoria, Ill., for Round 11 of 18 on Aug. 22.

Editor's note: The subhead to this story was removed and the third paragraph was edited Aug. 9 to remove incorrect information about the accident that claimed the life of David E. Kessel on July 15 in Berkeley County, W.Va.

Jessica Nicole Faircloth, 21, was arraigned July 21 on one felony count of driving under the influence with death after the car she was driving collided head-on with a motorcycle driven by Kessel.

The headline and story in Monday's newspaper and online implied that Faircloth had been drinking, but there is no evidence of that in a complaint filed in magistrate court by Berkeley County Sheriff's Lt. W.A. Johnson. After the accident, Faircloth tested positive for benzodiazepine, cannabinoid and opiates after consenting to being tested, according to the complaint.

The case has not been adjudicated.

The Herald-Mail apologizes for the mistake.

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