PENNGROVE, Calif. – Buddy Kofoid awoke at 4 o’clock Saturday morning to the rush of winning the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget championship.
Out of excitement the Toyota Racing Development super prospect reached for his phone and thereby realized his subconscious had fooled him.
“When I sleep, I just sleep and don’t have any thoughts,” Kofoid said. “It was a dream. I thought it was real, and I woke up and it’s 4 o’clock, and I’m like, ‘Damn, why can’t it be like 3 o’clock right now?”
Kofoid could have sworn his second-fastest lap in those qualifying dreams was the real thing and in conjunction with what was needed to win his eventual USAC National Midget title Saturday at Ventura (Calif.) Speedway.
Some 12 hours later, Kofoid actually made it happen, qualifying third to receive the necessary time-trial points for his season-long goal. Relief then swept over him.
Since pairing with Keith Kunz Motorsports at the start of 2020, Kofoid set out to emulate the likes of Bryan Clauson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart: win a USAC national midget title on the way of hopefully becoming something in NASCAR.
Kofoid, who actually turned 20 years old today, wants to hit all of the rungs on the climb up auto racing’s ladder. The thoughts around that mission can be sneaky, overwhelming and a combination of the two at times.
“It was a lot of emotions and thoughts I guess,” Kofoid said of his dreams that both glimpsed his hyperactive mind and reality that soon set in.
“I’m excited,” Kofoid said of winning the title. “Relieved is probably a good word too.”
He ended up 89 points better than series stalwart Chris Windom through the 40-race run, an “ironic” finish in Kofoid’s view.
The entire second half of the season Kofoid weathered a broken wrist and broken left foot, injuries he suffered in a summer pavement late model crash.
Although his 37 top 10 finishes were most since Danny Caruthers in 1971 and 28 top fives most since Mel Kenyon in ‘77 on tour, the journey didn’t feel that vigorous.
Kofoid battled his injuries and his season-long point lead deteriorated thereafter.
He even went five months without a series win all while Windom went on a four-win surge in seven races to lead the point battle into the final stops of the year in California.
“I didn’t let it get me down just because of the success we had last year,” Kofoid said. “I felt like we could do it again.”
Kofoid’s win at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway, the first of seven races in California effectively righted the ship. It halted Windom’s momentum, put him back on top of the standings and back in victory lane for the first time since June 4.
From there Kofoid raced Windom head-to-head, trying to gain the edge lap by lap. Kofoid outscored Windom 461 to 359 over those last seven races.
It’s Kofoid’s 12th driver championship, in addition to nine outlaw kart titles, a Fremont (Ohio) Speedway sprint car title and King of the West limited 360 sprint car title. Kofoid also earned the prestigious Trophy Cup this year as well.
His mettle was one of the keys. At Pennsylvania’s Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway in August, one of his first events with his injuries, Kofoid learned grit and Advil can perform measures.
He finished second to Justin Grant that night.
“That gave me confidence that if I can do it with a broken wrist and get through it, when my hand gets better I know I can do even better when I have my hands,” Kofoid said. “That still gave me hope, and more will to fight to get through it.”
Now Kofoid’s wrist and foot are “pretty much 100 percent again.”
Kofoid will take the month of December off before resuming his journey at the Chili Bowl Nationals in January.
No plans for 2022 have been finalized as of yet, but Kofoid hopes to expand his pavement racing pursuits sooner than later.
He’ll fly out to Indianapolis one more time, Dec. 10 for the USAC banquet, in the middle of his awaited return home in Penngrove, Calif., where he intends to dream more but sleep more soundly.
“It’s funny, I qualified one spot worse than my dream,” Kofoid said. “And after I qualified third I wasn’t that happy because I didn’t feel that good. I thought we weren’t going to stay up there because of how I felt.
“Luckily the track kind of went away,” Kofoid said, “and we celebrated on the frontstretch at the end of the night.”