November 29, 2022

Motowndesserts

Automotive to Us

Vietnam War vet, cancer survivor copes with pain by racing motorcycles

Jim Procopio sits atop his Honda XR 500, which he races with, on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, near his residence in Mount Healthy. Procopio's Honda XR 500 had been previously stolen and was missing for 3 years before it was returned to him.

On Friday nights, the Lawrenceburg Motorcycle Speedway comes alive. The smell of exhaust fills the air and bleachers vibrate from the deafening roar of motors revving, as motorcyclists of all ages line up to compete in a high-adrenaline, high-risk race around a smooth dirt track. 

These are the nights that James Procopio lives for. The 74-year-old Vietnam War veteran started racing motorcycles in his 20s but had to give it up after family and life got in the way. 

Procopio says he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011 and needed surgery to remove his intestines. He returned to the race track about four years ago after receiving his final chemotherapy treatment.

“I came down here one night, said ‘Man, I sure miss that,’ and from that night on I put a bike together and started racing,” Procopio told The Enquirer, sitting in the back of a pickup truck on a cold, dark November night, the orange glow of a portable heater at his feet, while waiting for his turn to race. 

Procopio worked for two years fixing up a red, white and blue 1980 Honda XR 500 to get it in racing form. But he was only able to race the bike once before it was stolen, along with his pickup truck, from his apartment in Mount Healthy. 

The truck was recovered not long after it was stolen but the bike was gone. “Every spare dime went into that bike,” he said.