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Wrecking Crew Rider Joe Kopp Wins First Race of the Season

TUCSON (Oct. 1, 2007) - To put it mildly, Saturday was a great night for Harley-Davidson racing at the AMA Flat Track Twins Ford Quality Checked Championship event at USA Race Park.

On any other night throughout the season, Joe Kopp's win would be reason enough to celebrate. The 2000 AMA Grand National champion finally put his Team Latus/Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson into the win column. It was the veteran's first win this season and 12th of his career. And he battled the defending series champion, Kenny Coolbeth, the entire race.

On any other night, that would have been the talk of the town. But while Coolbeth couldn't steal the win, he did steal the spotlight.

Coolbeth claimed his second consecutive AMA Twins Flat Track championship Saturday. Coolbeth went into the race with a 19-point lead over second place rider Jared Mees and the Blue Springs/Screamin' Eagle team. Coolbeth's second place finish combined with Mees' fourth place finish gave him the championship with one race remaining this season.

"I never thought it would have been possible to win the championship before the final race of the season," Coolbeth said. "The competition out here is so tough and Jared really made me earn it this season. He forced me to step up my riding and that made for an even better championship battle.

"Winning the championship with a new team last year was amazing but this year's championship means more. My team worked so hard and we worked so much better together having one year of experience behind us. My crew members Craig Lager, Ryan Cross, Brad Bishop and Matt Hernigle gave me the best equipment on the track and that took a lot of the pressure off me all season."

Coolbeth has claimed six race victories this season. He also has three second place finishes. He's been off the podium just twice. Coolbeth has 15 career wins to go with his two series championships.

"It's an understatement to say how proud we are of Kenny and the entire factory crew," Harley-Davidson Racing Manager Anne Paluso said. "He's had a great season and he earned that championship with consistently great races.

"Last year was the first season we brought back the Wrecking Crew and our team won five races and Kenny won his first AMA Twins championship. This year the teams have done even better. They worked really hard during the offseason to be able to come out and compete and their efforts have paid off in the form of 10 Wrecking Crew victories this season and another championship. We're very proud of all four teams."

They may have finished in the top two, but neither Kopp nor Coolbeth was first off the line on Saturday. Rich King took the lead early. After a red flag restart, King was again in the lead on his Corbin Seats Harley-Davidson. But Coolbeth and Kopp were able to get by on the first lap. Shortly after that, Coolbeth slipped slightly in turn four and Kopp took advantage and got by Coolbeth for the lead.

Kopp never relinquished the top spot after that.

"I had raced my way up from sixth to second place in one of my heat races and I knew then that I could pass if I had to," Kopp said. "Kenny bobbled once and I took the lead. He pushed me and pushed me, and I had to make sure I didn't make any mistakes because he would get by. He was right on me the entire race.

"This win wasn't a gimme. Kenny made me earn it and I wouldn't have it any other way. It was a great race and it restored some of the confidence I had lost throughout the season."

While Kopp finished first and Coolbeth second, Wrecking Crew riders Mees and Bryan Smith (Pat Moroney's Harley-Davidson) finished in fourth and 13th place, respectively. Mees maintains his second place in the standings. Smith is in third place and Kopp moved up into the No. 6 spot, just 14 points out of fourth place.

Coolbeth may have wrapped up the title but there is still one more trophy up for grabs this weekend when the Harley-Davidson Wrecking Crew joins the rest of the AMA Flat Track Twins racers in Las Vegas. Kopp still has a few things he would like to accomplish before the season is over.

"A few things need to happen, but I would like to see if I can't climb my way up into fourth place," Kopp said. "It would be great to see the Wrecking Crew riders in first through fourth place in the final standings. It's the last race of the season and everyone is going to be gunning for the final trophy. The win in Tucson has given me more confidence so I'm hoping to turn that into to one more race victory."

Coolbeth might be the biggest threat to Kopp once again as the champion suddenly is riding without the pressure of the point standings.

"The pressure to win a championship is over, but the desire to win another race is huge," Coolbeth said. "This might be the most fun at the race track I can have in a long time. I can't remember the last time I was racing just to win a trophy and not worrying about anything else. The season finale is in Las Vegas and I can't think of a better way to finish the season."

The AMA Twins finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas takes place Saturday.

Tucson, AZ Screamin' Eagle Wrecking Crew Race Summary
Main Event Finish Heat Finish Combined best time
Joe Kopp 1st 2nd 11th (0:20.847)
Kenny Coolbeth 2nd 1st 13th (0.20.884)
Jared Mees 4th 1st 1st (0:20.517)
Bryan Smith 13th 6th 3rd (0:20.714)

AMA Twins Top 10 Point Standings
(Following 11 of 12 events. Number of wins in parenthesis)
1. Kenny Coolbeth, Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson (6) 225
2. Jared Mees, Blue Springs H-D/ Screamin' Eagle H-D (3) 202
3. Bryan Smith, Pat Moroney's/Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson 147
4. Jake Johnson, Suzuki 143
5. Chris Carr, Quality Pre-Owned Ford Harley-Davidson (1) 138
6. Joe Kopp, Team Latus/Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson (1) 129
7. Shaun Russell, Bartels' Harley-Davidson 123
8. Glen Schnabel, American Suzuki 99
9. Jethro Halbert, Harley-Davidson of Fresno 69
10. Rich King, Harley-Davidson 64

All the action of this weekend's race and all AMA GNC Twins events can be seen via web cast provided by Live I Sports (
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