Knopf revs up retirement at the sprint racing track
Friday, December 4th, 2009
It’s been nearly 15 years since Ken Knopf, BSEE’61, retired from his job as an engineering supervisor for Lockheed, but the Santa Maria, CA, resident isn’t letting his motor idle in retirement.
In addition to bowling and golf, he’s one-half of the pit crew for his son, Mike – AKA “The Enforcer” – who races high-powered sprint cars.
“My role is primarily to make sure the engine runs properly and is repaired by our sponsor, Enforcer Racing Engines,” Knopf explained. “I service it, adjust the valves and make sure Mike has enough fuel for the entire race.”
His partner in the pit crew is former sprint race car driver Jon Harshbarger.
Mike was born while Knopf was pursuing his degree at Lawrence Tech. Now 54, Mike has been racing as a hobby since he was in his early 20s. Knopf notes proudly that his son has raced with some of the top racing organizations in California including the World of Outlaws, a division of winged sprint cars, and many others. Mike has won so many main-event races over the years that he’s practically lost count.
Mike launched his racing career with the American Motorcycle Association in the 250 Pro Class in the Santa Maria area, and he was the champion in his class two years in a row. From there he graduated to racing a hobby stock, which Knopf describes as “basically something you get out of a junkyard, make it safe and then go out and race it.”
Now he races high-powered sprint or super-modified cars.
Racing with his son isn’t Knopf’s only interest. He was formerly a semi-professional bowler on the West Coast Senior Tour. He has five sanctioned and four non-sanctioned 300 games, and he currently boasts a 220 average. In golf, his current handicap is about a 12.
Knopf enrolled at Lawrence Tech after a five-year stint in the Air Force. He worked at Chrysler’s missile division by day and took classes at night. “I decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and make something of myself,” he recalled. “It was the best thing I ever did.”
In 1995, Knopf retired after 33 years with Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. He and his wife, Rose, also have two daughters and four grandchildren. @CM