MAIZE, Kan. – A former Whitley County resident returned to the area with family and friends to race on the track where his love for racing micro sprint cars began.

Koop, 49, fell in love with racing as a young child. His family would take him from his childhood home near Blue Lake to the speedway in Warsaw. His grandfather, Charles Shively, would tell him stories from his racing days at the same track.

Shively passed away over a year ago, but his spirit was felt when Koop raced in Warsaw this past August. Koop finished ninth place while more than 50 family members cheered him on.

Among the family members in attendance were Koop’s parents from Georgia and his older sister and her family from Iowa.

“It was great to race where it all started, and in front of family. It meant a lot,” said Koop. “I was getting buckled in and I realized I was about to race in the same place he raced so many years ago. I said a little prayer to him as I was sitting in staging, wishing he could be there to watch me race and see him smiling. Thinking about it today still brings tears to my eyes.”

Koop enjoyed his time in Whitley County, but moved in 1980 to Colorado before his high school years. It wasn’t until 2009, when Koop started micro sprint racing, something he wanted to do since he heard his grandfathers’ stories. A micro sprint car—being a miniature car ran by a motorcycle engine.

Racing was every bit as exciting to him as his grandfather made it out to be.

“It gets the heart rate up. The feeling of the car when it turns a corner, it’s a pretty good feeling,” said Koop.

Koop currently has a Factor 1 car that he’s raced in Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri and now Indiana. The top speed reaches 80 miles per hour on a well-paved track.

Koop started racing at a track in Garden City, Kan., where he won many races. He moved into A class in 2010 and won the coveted track championship in 2011.

Koop now resides in Maize, Kan. He no longer races every weekend, since the nearest tracks from him are over 200 miles away.

“It’s one of those feeling you’ll never forget behind that wheel,” said Koop. “It’s just an adrenaline rush and an excitement that makes me want to do it more often than I am now.”