Photo by Jen Muecke
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Second-Generation Racer Is Poised For Pro Success

A decade after winning the AMA Flat Track Horizon Award, 2019 American Flat Track Twins Champion Briar Bauman reflected on his achievement.

“It is the coolest award at the time,” he said. “It feels like you just walked on the moon.”

In 2010, at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in Du Quoin, Ill., Bauman took home AMA National No. 1 plates in the 450cc Modified and 451cc–Open Modified classes.

This July at the 2020 AMA Flat Track Grand Championship—first at Plymouth Speedway in Plymouth, Ind., and, later, at Ashland County Fairgrounds in Ohio—second-generation flat tracker Kody Kopp captured two AMA National No. 1 plates of his own, one in 251cc–500cc DTX and the second in 450cc Modified.

And the 2020 Nicky Hayden AMA Flat Track Horizon Award.

“It’s such an honor to receive the Nicky Hayden AMA Flat Track Horizon Award,” said 15-year-old Kopp, the son of 2000 AMA Grand National Champion Joe Kopp. “It’s such an elite group of riders.

“Nicky was a great guy, the best on two wheels, in my opinion.”
The Horizon award was renamed in 2017 after its inaugural 1997 winner, Hayden, the 2006 MotoGP World Champion and 2018 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee.

“It’s just such a prestigious award,” Kopp said, “one of those things you only dream of coming through the ranks at the ‘amateur grands.’”
Kopp admitted he was somewhat surprised by his success at the FTGC.

“We had a rough start to the week,” he said, “so to come out with two championships is an unreal feeling.”

Kopp, who turns 16 in November, plans to join flat-track racing’s professional ranks next year in the 450cc Singles class.

“My goal is to train hard from now until next March,” he said, “and go pro at the Daytona TT, if that’s the first race next year.

“It’s a tough class, like being fed straight to the wolves. It will be great for experience, for sure.”

The rider from Mica, Wash., acknowledged the support he receives from his father.

“I wouldn’t be at the point I am right now without my dad,” Kopp said. “I don’t feel pressure from him. If I’m having fun, he’s having fun. He definitely likes seeing me out on the track.

“Obviously, there is pressure going into a championship. But staying relaxed really helped, and he was helping keep the nerves down. With his experience, he knows a lot about it.”

Kopp has two more heavy hitters in his corner, George Latus and Tim Estensen.

“George Latus has helped me since I pretty much started racing,” Kopp said. “He’s been a huge supporter of my program. He and Arney Wick of Fastrack Racing own my KTM 450s.

“This is our fourth year working with Tim Estenson of Estenson Racing. He helps with anything and everything he can. It’s great to have such amazing backing.”

Winner of the 2018 AMA Flat Track Fast Brain Award, Kopp is also a success in the digital classroom, maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average.

“We are home schooling,” he said, “so we can work out in the morning, then ride the bike. That’s the plan for the next three years of high school.

“Next year, I might do a bit of summer school. That way, I can graduate in a year and a half. I have goals in life. I love math and science, anything with numbers.”

Ultimately, Kopp wants to race in AFT SuperTwins.

“We stayed on an 85 longer than anybody in our age group,” he said. “Same with 250s. We were on them about a year longer than most people.

“You need to be able to ride the bike to its full potential, which usually takes a few years. My dream is to get on a twin and ride in the premier class.”

Photo by Jen Muecke