In NASCAR, there are big teams who run up front and contend for the win each week and there are also smaller teams. The smaller teams are some of the hardest working teams in NASCAR, with some teams only having volunteers to help them out. In this case, those smaller teams are working 24/7 toward the next race.
In this first installment of the underfunded team series, we take a look at Copp Motorsports. D.J. Copp gives his side of the story on how tough it is to run a team.
Copp Motorsports began in January 2017. The owner, D.J. Copp, who is always “looking for opportunities for continuously growing,” says “The goal is to build inventory on all levels including basic tools, carburetors, engines, to shop equipment. At the same time, attend and finish every race.”
The team consists of Copp, his wife Amanda and other individuals on a “case by case” basis. “My wife Amanda Leach and I are the only full-time focused individuals. I say focused because even when we are not at the shop, we are still working through details around finances, planning, travel, etc.,” Copp said.
For a big team, a top 15-25 finish is considered a bad day, but for a team like Copp Motorsports, it’s considered a win.
Copp explains, “Top teams can unload every week with the intent to win. I, on the other hand, have to pick and choose my battles. With funding being limited, I have to look at cost and what is my point of diminishing return from week to week. When we unload what I consider our “A” plan, then 15th is a win for me. My “A” plan is almost 40 horsepower down from the top teams.
I have never been to the wind tunnel with my equipment,” he continued, so I am sure, I am missing in the aero department. With minimal funding, I am unable to afford the talent to assemble my vehicles to their maximum capability. So I have to be resourceful, rely on my friends and make the best of it. To finish 15th is still a stretch with all the obstacles in our way. So from my viewpoint, we have one win and three top fives (finishes) this year.”
It is always difficult for a small team who just started to field a team in any series. For Copp, he’s doing his very best to strive in a sport that’s very competitive.
“I have been in the sport since 1995 and worked at every level within the sport with some of the biggest names,” Copp said.
“I thought I knew what I needed and I do, but never imagined how hard it would be. To get people to uphold their word and follow through with what they said, to navigate the political undermining within the sport to making sure you have gas in the generator and bread for the guys (crew) to make sandwiches at the track, to make sure all the details are in line so we can maximize on what we have, is more than I could ever imagine.”
In today’s ever advancing technology, it is important for teams to interact and connect with their fans. But Copp says their fan base is ever building.
“We have a small, but loyal following,” he said. “We just started our Facebook page back in February and have not been able to put the effort it deserves. We have a goal to build that area of our program and look forward to developing more personal and raw content.”
In Copp’s career, there have been some proud moments for him.
“Previous to being a team owner,” he explained, “was winning at Atlanta as the front tire changer for Carl Edwards’ first win in Cup. As an owner, seeing the No. 83 that my grandfather, father and myself ran at the local dirt track means a lot. However, showing up every week to the track and hearing someone from another team ask me how we are doing as well as we are with so little resources, I like being the little guy playing in the big boy world.”
For an underfunded team, it’s tough to continue to build in the rapidly changing sport of NASCAR. Copp hopes to be the “lucky one” in the next 10-15 years to have a team in NASCAR, but right now it’s tough to know what that will be like for him.
“Hard to say,” Copp said. “I have to be honest. I’m optimistic the sport and the industry will grow, but reality is, the sport is in a tough spot. It is hard to succeed in an industry that has limited potential. However, I will say if I’m one of the lucky ones that continue on, I see my program being one that works outside the industry standard and creates to innovative ways to not only market but to help create a workplace that is just fun!”
In a sport that’s extremely competitive and with so many big names, some fans are cheering more for the “underdogs” to succeed. Copp gives some ways for fans to support them as they continue to build their team.
“For now, I would ask that everyone support my sponsors by following and leaving comments on their pages referencing to Copp Motorsports,” he said. “Those sponsors would be NanoProMY, Fr8austions.com, UNOH, Bell Plantation and ZAK Products.”
Copp Motorsports has raced in all 10 races in 2017, with the likes of Todd Peck, Donnie Levister, Camden Murphy, J.J. Yeley and Mike Senica.