Thomas Aloysius Copp Junior was born January 30, 1927 in San Francisco California but in September 1...942 Tommy told officials he was born in 1925 and enlisted in the US Navy. During his service in the Pacific theatre, Copp rose to the rank of aviation radioman petty officer first class and served on the seaplane tender USS Hamlin. Once out of the military, Copp bought a motorcycle and one day in 1947 while he was tinkering with his cycle a passerby asked Copp if he was interested in driving a race car.
Tommy started in hardtops but by 1952 he was primarily a midget pilot with the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) and wound up in place tenth in 1952 BCRA points. Tommy finished fourth in the 1954 indoor BCRA season points behind Baldwin, Bob Veith, and Motter, repeated that finish in 1955 and finished fourth in the points for the 1956 BCRA outdoor season.
For the 1957 racing season on the 1/10-mile oval inside the Oakland Exposition Building, Copp finished as the runner-up to Veith, then Tommy led the points through most of the outdoor season, but lost the title to Bob Cortner. After another fourth place finish in the1958 indoor season, in 1959 Copp led the indoors championship wire-to-wire in Sim Clark’s car and was crowned the indoor champ by sixteen points.
Later in 1959, Copp raced with the United States Auto Club (USAC) midgets and scored the first of his four career wins at the Flat Rock Speedway in Michigan. Tommy closed his 1959 season with a fifth-place finish in the Turkey Night Grand Prix behind Tony Bettenhausen, Rodger Ward, Danny Oakes, and Johnnie Parsons.
During each of the succeeding five USAC seasons, Copp would score at least one win each season, and his 23 career USAC feature wins ties him with Billy Vukovich, ‘Pancho’ Carter, Tom Bigleow and Kevin Olson. Tommy finished third in USAC midget points three consecutive years between 1962 and 1964, and for the three years from 1963 to 1965, Copp finished second, fourth and third in the Turkey Night Grand Prix.
In the familiar confines of the Oakland Exposition building in1961, Tommy drove Sim Clark’s V8-60 powered midget to the BCRA indoor title as he edged four-time indoor champion Johnny Baldwin by 27 points. In 1964 Tommy drove a Kurtis Shilala Offenhauser midget indoors and captured both the driver title and the car owner championship for Bob Rosen.
Copp drove in nine USAC championship car events; on the first lap of the 1966 Atlanta 300 Indianapolis car race, Tommy’s rear engine car hit the outside of the first turn wall and burst into flames. Tommy suffered third degree burns on his hands, face and neck and later endured 27 surgeries. Copp continued to race midgets as late as 1971, and he passed away from cancer on November 2 1992. Already a member of the BCRA Hall of Fame we are proud to welcome multi-time champion Tommy Copp into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.