MERCED, Calif. — When all else fails, head to the top!
Buddy Kofoid successfully put this theory to the test en route to victory during Wednesday night’s penultimate round of the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season at Merced Speedway.
Kofoid started third, however, an uncharacteristic mishap in turn one on the opening lap sent the Penngrove, Calif., native skating up the racetrack and free-falling back to seventh.
“It really started with me making a mistake on the first corner when I went from like third to seventh,” Kofoid explained. “Then I started to move around, and I got up there early because I didn’t want to follow and I started ripping it and couldn’t really go anywhere, so I decided to get back down. I felt pretty good on the bottom, it just kind of laid over and was too tight for my liking.”
As he’d demonstrated on 12 previous occasions throughout the USAC National Midget season, he has a knack for blazing his own trail rather than relying on the standard thought process. Even though he began to make some headway on the bottom momentarily just before halfway, Kofoid soon found an option up top that better suited his aspirations.
“I was able to make speed and pick off one or two guys on the bottom, but I had kind of had enough following them, so I decided to move up there and make it work,” Kofoid recalled. “Even if it wasn’t very good the first couple of laps, I knew if I could get it cleaned off then maybe I’d be OK.”
With 10 laps remaining, the newly crowned back-to-back USAC National Midget champion picked off a succession of contemporaries on his way from fifth to second in a span of three laps, first by Jason McDougal for fourth on lap 21, then by Jade Avedisian for third on the 22nd circuit and passed Daniel Whitley for the runner-up position on the 23rd lap all while mainly making the topside of the quarter-mile dirt oval his figurative yellow brick road to the front.
Kofoid dug in on the cushion after having dug out of the hole he was seemingly buried in at the start of the 30-lapper.
With five laps remaining, Kofoid’s spirited determination came to fruition when he zipped around racelong frontrunner Spencer Bayston on the high side of turn four on lap 26 to assume the position as the new leader.
The late red flag came about with three laps remaining when 16th running Kaylee Bryson flipped between turns one and two on the 28th lap. She managed to restart from the tail of the field following the accident and finished in the 20th position.
Meanwhile, third running Whitley was unable to continue following the red flag period due to a broken rear end that put an early end in what was a career best run for the Californian making just his third career series start.
Upon the resumption of the final three laps, there was nary a single piece of ammunition anybody had in their arsenal to chase down Kofoid who completed the task with gusto and a .576-second victory over Bayston, McDougal, Avedisian and hard-charger Jacob Denney, who finished fifth after starting back in the 14th position.
Kofoid’s run of success in 2022 makes him one of just five drivers in the 67-year history of the USAC National Midget series to reach at least 13 wins in a single season. Mel Kenyon owns the most series wins in a season with 17 in 1967. Rich Vogler put together a 16-win campaign in 1988. Kenyon made the exclusive list again in 1969 when he notched 14. Sleepy Tripp also achieved 13 triumphant performances with the series in 1975.
Kofoid’s 22nd career USAC National Midget feature victory ties him with series champions Tom Bigelow, Bobby East and Shorty Templeman for 27th on the series’ all-time win list.
Bayston turned in his best USAC National Midget performance in four years. The 2017 series champ led a race-high 25 laps en route to a second place finish in his Dyson Motorsport/Complete Parts & Equipment – Tarlton & Son – Empire/King/Speedway Toyota.
“The bottom of (turns 1 and 2) were really good and I felt super confident with what I was doing down there,” Bayston stated. “Early in the race, in three and four, I felt good with what I was doing, but I could feel it starting to slow down. I just kept looking to the top and thinking, that’s a really big cushion, and it’s black to it.’ I was thinking there wasn’t going to be anybody up there making speed. But obviously, if anybody was going to do it, it was Buddy.”
McDougal provided five-time USAC Western States Midget entrant champion Six8 Motorsports with its best USAC National Midget result with a third place run as he used the low line to scoot into third with two laps to go in his Six8 Motorsports/Esslinger Engineering – CSI – Extreme Mufflers – Maxwell Industries/Stewart/Esslinger.
USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Championship, Merced Speedway, Merced, Calif., Nov. 23, 20222
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Mitchel Moles, 89, CBI-11.947; 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5T, Alexander-11.955; 3. Jade Avedisian, 84, CBI-12.012; 4. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.024; 5. Jake Andreotti, 00, Davis-12.029; 6. Carson Macedo, 99AU, Dyson-12.033; 7. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.050; 8. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.071; 9. Jacob Denney, 25, Malloy-12.079; 10. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac Dalby-12.079; 11. Gavin Miller, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.090; 12. Daniel Whitley, 57, Abacus-12.101; 13. Spencer Bayston, 9AU, Dyson-12.130; 14. Tanner Thorson, 88, Thorson-12.132; 15. Justin Grant, 2J, RMS-12.145; 16. Alex Bright, 19, Reinbold/Underwood-12.150; 17. Tanner Carrick, 71m, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.156; 18. Bryant Wiedeman, 01, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.166; 19. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.176; 20. Dylan Bloomfield, 14T, Streeter-12.182; 21. Jason McDougal, 68, Six8-12.193; 22. Logan Seavey, 58, Abacus-12.198; 23. Ryan Timms, 97K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.210; 24. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.231; 25. Daison Pursley, 71p, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.298; 26. Brody Fuson, 51, Carlile-12.317; 27. Chance Crum, 26, Rudeen-12.362; 28. Dominic Gorden, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.365; 29. Emerson Axsom, 25x, Malloy-12.386; 30. Michael Pickens, 4, Dave Mac Dalby-12.429; 31. Austin Barnhill, 17B, Dave Mac-12.504; 32. Kyle Beilman, 31K, Beilman-12.519; 33. Zach Telford, 22G, Risner-12.521; 34. Mariah Ede, 71E, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.553; 35. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-12.557; 36. Lance Bennett, 91, Mason-12.871; 37. Ben Worth, 5K, Alexander-12.884; 38. Travis Buckley, 7NZ, BSL-12.958; 39. Blaze Bennett, 10B, Bennett-13.212; 40. Nathan Byrd, 11K, Kruseman-13.682; 41. Michael Faccinto, 14J, Graunstadt-NT; 42. Teddy Bivert, 22s, GR-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Jason McDougal, 2. Tanner Carrick, 3. Mitchel Moles, 4. Spencer Bayston, 5. Jake Andreotti, 6. Jacob Denney, 7. Emerson Axsom, 8. Daison Pursley, 9. Zach Telford, 10. Ben Worth. 2:02.69
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Bryant Wiedeman, 4. Carson Macedo, 5. Kevin Thomas Jr., 6. Michael Pickens, 7. Cannon McIntosh, 8. Brody Fuson, 9. Mariah Ede, 10. Travis Buckley. 2:03.29
PIT STOP USA THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Ryan Timms, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Kaylee Bryson, 4. Jade Avedisian, 5. Chance Crum, 6. Gavin Miller, 7. Thomas Meseraull, 8. Hayden Reinbold, 9. Austin Barnhill. 2:02.41
ROD END SUPPLY FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Brenham Crouch, 2. Daniel Whitley, 3. Buddy Kofoid, 4. Dylan Bloomfield, 5. Alex Bright, 6. Taylor Reimer, 7. Dominic Gorden, 8. Lance Bennett, 9. Kyle Beilman, 10. Nathan Byrd. 2:03.29
C MAIN: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Austin Barnhill, 2. Thomas Meseraull, 3. Kyle Beilman, 4. Travis Buckley, 5. Lance Bennett, 6. Nathan Byrd, 7. Zach Telford, 8. Mariah Ede. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Taylor Reimer, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Jacob Denney, 4. Cannon McIntosh, 5. Jake Andreotti, 6. Gavin Miller, 7. Michael Pickens, 8. Daison Pursley, 9. Alex Bright, 10. Chance Crum, 11. Thomas Meseraull, 12. Brody Fuson, 13. Hayden Reinbold, 14. Dominic Gorden, 15. Emerson Axsom, 16. Austin Barnhill, 17. Travis Buckley, 18. Kyle Beilman. 2:27.31
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Buddy Kofoid (3), 2. Spencer Bayston (1), 3. Jason McDougal (7), 4. Jade Avedisian (5), 5. Jacob Denney (14), 6. Carson Macedo (4), 7. Cannon McIntosh (15), 8. Kevin Thomas Jr. (11), 9. Mitchel Moles (6), 10. Tanner Carrick (17), 11. Justin Grant (16), 12. Thomas Meseraull (23-P), 13. Ryan Timms (9), 14. Chance Crum (24-P), 15. Taylor Reimer (12), 16. Brenham Crouch (10), 17. Tanner Thorson (21), 18. Gavin Miller (20), 19. Jake Andreotti (13), 20. Kaylee Bryson (19), 21. Logan Seavey (8), 22. Bryant Wiedeman (18), 23. Daniel Whitley (2), 24. Dylan Bloomfield (22). NT