By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Sweet Springs, Missouri (September 5, 2020)………After pounding on the door all throughout his Rookie USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget campaign, Buddy Kofoid finally bust through that door for his first career feature victory with the series on Saturday night at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex.
With four second-place finishes to his name in USAC National Midget competition this year, the time seemed nigh for the Penngrove, Calif. native to reach the top of the totem pole. Patience is a virtue, and the 18-year-old displayed it in droves, and was primed to strike when the opportunity arose, leading the final 12 laps en route to becoming the initial first-time series winner of the 2020 season.
“We’ve been working on this one for a long time,” an elated Kofoid stated. “To finally be able to put a USAC win on my resume, quite a few people have done it, but not very many people have, at the same time. To finally do it, especially for this team, the most prestigious midget team in the world, is really special.”
Kofoid’s triumph came just one night following a rough-and-tumble opening lap that saw him barrel-roll three times down the back straightaway during the first night at Sweet Springs. After walking away dejected and dour, Kofoid looked on as his teammate, Cannon McIntosh, won KKM’s first USAC race of the year, adding fuel to Kofoid’s yearning for his next shot just 24 hours later.
“I knew we were fast enough last night, and we were starting in a really good position,” Kofoid recalled. “It’s kind of hard to say now, but yesterday, I felt like I was good enough to maybe contend for a win. I kind of got crashed on the first half-lap, which really hurt us for points, but also my pride a little bit. To come back and get redemption is really cool.”
To win is to beat the best, and Kofoid endured and dodged every single arrow shot his way from the likes of his teammates to the defending series champ, all while having to start from the seventh position on the grid at the 1/6-mile dirt bullring.
As it turned out, indeed it was the defending champ, Tyler Courtney, who slung himself out to the early race lead from his outside front row starting position.
The first stoppage of the night arrived on the sixth lap and involved 14th running Andrew Felker who bounced his way through turn one before flipping over, an incident which also collected Robert Dalby and Thomas Meseraull. Meseraull was the only of the three who resumed and raced back to a 9th place result.
By lap 10, Kofoid had worked his way to 3rd and began waging war with Justin Grant for the runner-up position. The two swapped sliders for the next three circuits until the two made contact on lap 12 in turn four, which sent Grant sideways and dropped him through the pack. Meanwhile, Friday night’s Sweet Springs winner Cannon McIntosh slipped by both Grant and Kofoid to take 2nd.
On the restart following Kaylee Bryson’s turn one flip on the 15th lap, McIntosh surged to the lead by the time the pair hit the back straightaway, utilizing the bottom of the surface to ride past Courtney, then proceeded to open up a two second advantage out front as the race reached its halfway point.
Kofoid caught Courtney on the 28th lap through the thick of the traffic and slid by Courtney for 2nd at the exit of turn four. A moment and one lap later, 11th running Tanner Thorson was stopped backwards in turn one, bringing out the caution, thus clearing the traffic away from the leader, McIntosh, but put Kofoid right on his tail for the restart.
The chase Kofoid put on McIntosh didn’t last long as Kofoid hit the bottom of turn three on the ensuing lap 29 restart and slid past McIntosh, clearing him for the number one spot at the exit of turn four.
A resurgent McIntosh returned to pose a threat to Kofoid once again for the lead on the 34th lap, setting up his slider into turn three with a full head of steam. However, instead, McIntosh clipped the turn three infield berm with left front tire, sending him sliding to a stop on the topside of turns three and four. With his bid for a repeat victory vanished, McIntosh restarted and finished 12th.
Kofoid then had to withstand multiple restarts down the stretch, the final one coming with three laps remaining with Courtney now assuming the role of the shadow in 2nd. Courtney followed Kofoid the first circuit, then found a run off of turn two coming to the white flag that allowed him to close rapidly on Kofoid, thus setting up what turned out to be his one and only, final haymaker.
Courtney threw his machine hard to the bottom of three before sliding up toward Kofoid up against the cushion. With no sense of rattle or hesitation, Kofoid never blinked, kept his foot on the throttle and denied Courtney the lead by racing back around on the outside of turn four. Courtney, meanwhile, banked off the turn four cushion and lost too much ground to make another run for the win on the final lap as Kofoid raced away and edged Courtney by two car lengths at the line.
After a 27-race winless drought in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports was ended on Friday night by McIntosh, it took just one more night for the next victory to arrive for the Columbus, Ind. based team who made it an undefeated 4-for-4 in terms of USAC Midget feature victories at Sweet Springs after previous triumphs by Logan Seavey (2018) and Tanner Carrick (2019), and Kofoid was going to give everything and do whatever the task required to continue the winning streak.
“When we were taking the white, he threw a slider and when I saw him, I pretty much said ‘I’m not lifting,’” Kofoid remembered. “I was already committed and just squeaked by. (Courtney) even said, ‘I don’t know how you got by.’ At the end of the day, I just wanted it badly and I was going to do anything it took to do that.”
Earlier, in Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying, Kofoid’s KKM teammate, Kaylee Bryson, became the first female to set fast time during a USAC National Midget event since Holly Shelton in 2018 at Solomon Valley Raceway in Beloit, Kans., also driving for KKM. Bryson later established the 12-lap USAC National Midget track record at Sweet Springs during the Indy Race Parts/Indy Metal Finishing semi-feature at 2:31.066.
Furthermore, Spencer Bayston, the 2017 USAC National Midget champion, set a new 10-lap USAC National Midget track record at Sweet Springs with a time of 2:03.300 during Simpson Race Products heat race one.