Show, don’t tell. It’s an old adage new writers follow when they are learning how to craft a story. It turns out, the approach works just as well for teaching a kid how to race.
Professional stunt driver Danny Bopp learned this when he was wearing a helmet much too big for his 10-year-old head, racing a go-kart around a homemade track. Terrified of the engine—both of its power and of the loud noise it made each time he accelerated—the boy drove too slowly for his dad, legendary crew chief and chassis builder Glenn Bopp. So Bopp stopped his son, climbed on top of the kid-size kart and proceeded to floor the machine three times around the track, dust flying everywhere. “That’s how you race. And that’s how I want you to race,” he told his son as he exited the cart, the cigarette still dangling from his lips. Danny has been pressing his pedal to the metal ever since.
“He showed me how fast you could go and still be in control,” recalls the younger Bopp. “You don’t have to be scared to push something to the limit.”
Now 34, the Lonedell, Missouri, native has spent his life pushing the limits on wheels. He started competitive racing in 1997 in a WKA Kart and advanced from Bandolero to ARCA and ultimately to NASCAR Whelen Super Late Model Series, where he enjoyed three top ten finishes in four years. Around 2010, Bopp moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in stunt driving, eventually joining the driving team, LA Motorsports. Since both careers involve a knack for multitasking and precision, twenty years of competitive racing prepped Bopp for his current gig as a stunt driver. His job description now includes taking turns at 100 miles per hour and executing effortless donuts, drifts, and 180 degree spins, among many other tricks, for TV shows and commercials.
Staying fit is also a requisite, as some stunt jobs can require intense 16-hour days. “It’s not like a relaxing road trip, you’re going really fast and taking turns two inches away from a $50,000 camera,” he says. “It can be exhausting, so it really helps to be in shape.”
Bopp goes to the gym twice a week, but fresh air is more his speed. He stays active playing tennis, mountain and road biking, plus regular runs in nearby Runyon Canyon. “I’m more outdoorsy because in Los Angeles you can do it year round,” he says. “I never get tired of the landscape out here. I’ve been to so many places, and there are always ones I have yet to discover—whether it’s the mountains, beach, desert, or cityscape—it always surprises me.”
The professional driver shares his appreciation for the outdoors and four wheels with his fiance, Lili Baross. The actress, who he’ll wed in December, is also a stunt car driver, thanks to Bopp. Noticing that there was a dearth of women in the stunt driving industry, and specifically beautiful brunettes, two years ago Bopp suggested Baross give it a whirl. Since then, he’s taught her everything he already knows, plus what he’s learning with each new job. “She’s a perfectionist,” he says with pride about her success. Between practice and gigs, the lead-footed duo created an Instagram account called The Driving Bandits dedicated to their shared passion.
Bopp admits he’s inherited his dad’s instructional approach to teaching his fiancé. “I'm not the best at explaining, so I try to give a demonstration outside of the car, then give another demonstration inside the car,” he says.
Now it’s his turn to show, not tell.