By Richie Murray
Gas City, Indiana (September 22, 2022)………One-thirty-three is just a number. But when it comes to USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship racing, it’s more than “just a number.”
Steve Lewis’ long-held record of 133 series feature wins as an entrant was tied by car owner Keith Kunz whose driver earned his own significant piece of history as well during Thursday night’s James Dean Classic at Indiana’s Gas City I-69 Speedway.
Penngrove, California’s Kofoid raced to his 10th victory of the season, making him the first driver since Rich Vogler in 1988 to reach double-figures in terms of single season USAC National Midget victories.
For Kofoid, it was his second consecutive series victory at Gas City’s 1/4-mile dirt oval after notching his first during Indiana Midget Week in June of 2021.
He did it all after starting back in the eighth position before climbing his way to the lead with 12 laps remaining following a back-and-forth tussle between himself and teammate Kaylee Bryson on the 19th lap, then carried on to the checkered aboard his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
Kofoid’s 19th career triumph moved him another notch on the all-time USAC National Midget feature win list. He now stands tied for 35th all-time alongside Jerry Coons Jr., Tyler Courtney, Stan Fox and Jason Leffler.
To boot, Kofoid won it in style as he led a KKM sweep of the podium with himself, Bryson and Brenham Crouch occupying the top-three.
It was an especially proud night for Muskogee, Oklahoma’s Bryson as she led a race-high 18 laps and finished as the runner-up, which equals the best ever finish by a woman in USAC National Midget competition. Sarah McCune also finished second at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway during the 1999 season.
But, in the end, the night once again belonged to Kofoid who brought the team one step closer to an all-time record while also moving himself one step closer to a second straight series championship.
“I wanted to come into this weekend by getting closer or by breaking Steve Lewis’ record,” Kofoid acknowledged. “It’s fun to be a part of it and have something else to chase outside of getting double-digit wins or trying to chase a championship again. It would be really cool to do that for KKM.”
Yet, it was Bryson who had the early upper hand as she shot out to the initial lead from the outside of the front row, but pole sitter Crouch constantly shadowed her rear bumper throughout the first seven laps until 10th running Bryant Wiedeman struck the turn three cushion with his right rear tire, which snapped the car to the left side and sent him spiraling through the air four-and-a-half times before landing upside down. The incident knocked him out of the contest, but he was able to walk away.
On the ensuing restart, race leader Bryson bounced like a pogo stick through turns three and four. Crouch instantaneously pulled to the inside of Bryson while Kofoid took to the outside to make it three-wide off turn four. Mere moments later, Crouch encountered the same scenario on the opposite end, bouncing through turns one and two, which cost him the second spot to Kofoid.
Following an uncharacteristic 12th place qualifying run, Kofoid pieced his night back together by snagging a heat race victory, thus putting him on the outside of the fourth row for the 30-lap feature.
From there, it didn’t take long for Kofoid to carve his way up the totem pole as he was fifth by the end of lap one, up to third by lap four and into second with nine laps in the book, but he suddenly hit a snag on lap 12 when hard-charging Jacob Denney slid past him for second. Kofoid reacted by cutting to the bottom of the racing surface at the entry to turn one a half lap later when he too bounced like a basketball right into the path of the rim-riding Denney. The two tapped wheels which sent Denney over the hill in turn two and all the way back to the eighth position by the time he regained his marbles.
“It was kind of an up and down night,” Kofoid admitted. “I qualified not so good and then felt really good in the heat race. I was good in the feature, then I didn’t feel quite so good, then I got back on it again. Sorry to Jacob Denney. I messed up on the cushion and he got by, then I tried to slide him and just caught the hole wrong and bounced into him. That’s on me.”
Kofoid gathered it back up and slid Bryson for the lead on lap 18, but Bryson was waiting and countered the move by ducking under Kofoid in turn two to regain the lead. Kofoid wound it up again and attempted the same move in turns one and two on lap 19, which, this time, forced Bryson to check up. Moving into turn three, Bryson attempted to return the favor, but took a hop into turn three that halted her momentum and allowed Kofoid to race by and say “sayonara.”
“I felt like it was hard to make speed on the cushion,” Kofoid explained. “It took me awhile to get it cleaned off kind of like the heat race, and I figured if I was close, I needed to throw (a slide job) right there. A couple times, it was too early, and she got by. Then, I finally got the cushion rolling and just needed to run it mistake free with how big it got. Where I come from, I love tracks like this, and I feel like it’s in my wheelhouse.”
Kofoid jetted away from the field over the final 10 laps, building up a 5.515 second lead coming to the checkered flag, crossing the line just as 19th running Blake Brannon was enduring a flip atop the cushion in turns three and four. Brannon emerged unscathed while Kofoid emerged victorious over Bryson, Crouch, Chance Crum and Denney.
Seventh-place finisher Cannon McIntosh turned in a whale of a performance after flipping during his qualifying run, which resulted in him not recording a qualifying time. Forced to start at the tail of the feature in the 23rd starting spot, McIntosh advanced 16 positions. Tack those onto the four spots he gained in his heat race, not only was the Bixby, Okla. driver the feature hard charger, he was also the overall ProSource Passing Master for the evening, earning him a $200 bonus.
Maria Cofer (Macdoel, Calif.) became the eighth woman to set Fatheadz Fast Qualifying time in USAC National Midget history to start the night. By doing so, she joined Taylor Reimer, Kaylee Bryson, Sarah McCune, Jade Avedisian, Sarah Fisher, Stephanie Mockler and Holly Shelton in that class.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: September 22, 2022 – Gas City I-69 Speedway – Gas City, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – 4th James Dean Classic
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Maria Cofer, 57, Abacus-12.052; 2. Ethan Mitchell, 9m, Bundy Built-12.080; 3. Jacob Denney, 25m, Malloy-12.135; 4. Chance Crum, 26, Rudeen-12.139; 5. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.178; 6. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.190; 7. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.255; 8. Tanner Carrick, 97K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.256; 9. Justin Grant, 2J, RMS-12.280; 10. Bryant Wiedeman, 01, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.295; 11. Hayden Reinbold, 19, Reinbold/Underwood-12.328; 12. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.331; 13. Mitchel Moles, 89, CBI-12.372; 14. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-12.377; 15. Alex Bright, 25, Malloy-12.439; 16. Kyle Cummins, 3G, Styres-12.446; 17. Adam Taylor, 7T, ATM-12.501; 18. Blake Brannon, 40, Western Speed-12.503; 19. Dominic Gorden, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.594; 20. Bryan Stanfill, 75AU, Griffiths-12.817; 21. Michael Magic, 4m, Magic-12.937; 22. Jakeb Boxell, 44JB, Boxell-12.961; 23. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac Dalby-NT; 24. Justin Dickerson, 21D, Dickerson-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Taylor Reimer, 2. Mitchel Moles, 3. Maria Cofer, 4. Bryant Wiedeman, 5. Chance Crum, 6. Dominic Gorden, 7. Jakeb Boxell, 8. Kyle Cummins. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Tanner Carrick, 3. Ethan Mitchell, 4. Cannon McIntosh, 5. Kaylee Bryson, 6. Hayden Reinbold, 7. Adam Taylor, 8. Bryan Stanfill. NT
PIT STOP USA/ROD END SUPPLY THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Buddy Kofoid, 2. Alex Bright, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Brenham Crouch, 5. Jacob Denney, 6. Michael Magic, 7. Blake Brannon. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Buddy Kofoid (8), 2. Kaylee Bryson (2), 3. Brenham Crouch (1), 4. Chance Crum (3), 5. Jacob Denney (4), 6. Ethan Mitchell (5), 7. Cannon McIntosh (23), 8. Thomas Meseraull (9), 9. Tanner Carrick (10), 10. Justin Grant (11), 11. Dominic Gorden (19), 12. Mitchel Moles (14), 13. Alex Bright (15), 14. Kyle Cummins (16), 15. Taylor Reimer (7), 16. Maria Cofer (6), 17. Michael Magic (21), 18. Hayden Reinbold (13), 19. Adam Taylor (17), 20. Blake Brannon (18), 21. Bryan Stanfill (20), 22. Bryant Wiedeman (12), 23. Jakeb Boxell (22). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-18 Kaylee Bryson, Laps 19-30 Buddy Kofoid.
**Cannon McIntosh flipped during qualifying. Bryant Wiedeman flipped on lap 7 of the feature. Blake Brannon flipped on lap 30 of the feature.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-1474, 2-Justin Grant-1313, 3-Cannon McIntosh-1140, 4-Thomas Meseraull-1114, 5-Mitchel Moles-1104, 6-Kaylee Bryson-1096, 7-Bryant Wiedeman-1091, 8-Brenham Crouch-928, 9-Ethan Mitchell-913, 10-Jacob Denney-897.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-137, 2-Thomas Meseraull-118, 3-Brady Bacon-111, 4-Buddy Kofoid-97, 5-Kaylee Bryson-93, 6-Robert Ballou-91, 7-Logan Seavey-83, 8-Kyle Cummins-73, 9-Matt Westfall-72, 10-Emerson Axsom-70.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: September 23-24, 2022 – Eldora Speedway – Rossburg, Ohio – 1/2-Mile Dirt Track – 40th 4-Crown Nationals Presented By NKTELCO
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Kaylee Bryson (12.319)
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Maria Cofer (12.052)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Taylor Reimer
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Thomas Meseraull
Pit Stop USA / Rod End Supply Third Heat Winner: Buddy Kofoid
Feature Hard Charger: Cannon McIntosh (23rd to 7th)