Cheney Free Press -

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Medical Lake's Cooper is busy stocking trophy case

Drag racing success is fostered by plenty of family support

 

August 10, 2017

Paul Delaney

Justin Cooper of Medical Lake shows off his first and most recent "Wally" trophies following a July 16 win in a National Hot Rod Association Division 6 Super Comp race in Woodburn, Ore.

Turns out that Justin Cooper's latest addition to his trophy case might mean he maybe needs a new shelf.

The 28-year-old Medical Lake resident won his second coveted National Hot Rod Association Division 6 championship, "Wally" at Woodburn, Ore. July 16. It was the latest in a string of success at the drag strip, located just off of Interstate 5 between Salem and Portland.

Cooper drove the dragster owned by Spokane contractor Tom Clark to an elapsed time of 8.907 seconds at 172.11 miles-per-hour to defeat Joe Kapler of Tacoma (8.891, 167.87) and win the Super Comp title. While Cooper's time was slower, his opponent ran too quick for the class Index, or minimum ET of 8.90.

It was his second Division 6 win of the trophy nicknamed for NHRA founder Wally Parks. His first came in 2015 at Yellowstone Dragstrip in Acton, Mont. near Billings in the Super Street class.

Racing at Woodburn has meant some significant success for Cooper over the years. In 2016 he was victorious in a big bracket race that paid him $4,000.

The check has a nickname, too, "Happy Gilmore," after the factious golfer played by Adam Sandler. "To me it's almost as coveted as a Wally," Cooper said.

The 28-year-old is a member of the class of 2007 at Medical Lake. Drag racing consumes the spare time he has away from being a maintenance mechanic for the nearby state institutions.

But he's not alone in the pursuit with his family that moved to the community from Arizona in 1978.

Cars have been a family thing, going back generations. "My grandfather had a brand new '69 Roadrunner so he was into muscle cars and stuff," Cooper said. That got Cooper's dad Steve caught up in things, too.

And Cooper's sister, Stephanie, is also an accomplished racer, too, winning the NHRA Division 6 "Rookie of the Year," award in 2016.

Grampa John and Steve Cooper got Justin Cooper into his entry-level car, a 1967 Plymouth Satellite.

His dad ran the car before Cooper jumped behind the wheel in high school drag racing competition in 2005 at what was then Spokane Raceway Park - now Spokane County Raceway.

Cooper has built an impressive resume on the quarter-mile and began racing for points - and championships - in 2006. He's a five-time King of the Hill champ at Spokane, meaning he beat all comers, even the swift dragsters.

Woodburn has not been the only place where Cooper has tasted success. In 2008 he ventured to Yakima's Renegade Raceway and won the Mopar title for Chrysler/Dodge products and was the 2010 Pro champ in Walla Walla.

And there have been a number of near misses, most notably in 2014 - in Woodburn of course - where 6/1,000's of a second was the difference between earning his first divisional victory. While hard to calculate that can be a foot, or even mere inches, Cooper said.

Cooper connected with Clark when he was trying to race both his Chevelle and a dragster in the same day.

Clark remembers first meeting the Cooper family. "We pitted next to each other and became friends," he said. He elevated his status in Clark's eyes after some success in divisional racing.

"Sharing our passion of racing makes it more enjoyable for us," Clark said. "Due to my good fortune in life I'm able to pursue this hobby and giving Justin the same chance brings me great joy," he added.

Clark has a second dragster that he is campaigning in the same Super Comp class and Cooper hopes that some day the two will meet on the track.

Cooper has, however, faced off against his sister in some local racing in Spokane.

"We've gone head-to-head four times, most recently in the trophy class final last weekend (Aug. 5) at Spokane," Cooper said. "We're now 50/50."

But his sibling, three-and-a-half years his junior, did top her brother in 2015 in a preliminary round of Super Street. That took place of course in Woodburn, perhaps charting her course for future success there as well.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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