By Richie Murray
Merced, California (November 23, 2022)………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 California’s Merced Speedway.
After making a charge from 14th to 2nd one night prior at Merced, the prevailing thought became ‘What could he have done if he started closer to the front?’
At first glance, Wednesday’s third place starting position for Kofoid seemed to be the remedy to rectify what ailed him a mere 24 hours earlier.
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 in the running order, thus forcing him into the position of having to come-from-behind once again.
“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 okay.
That’s when the tide immediately turned for Kofoid and he began to make enormous strides in his quest to race to the front of the field.
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.
“All of a sudden, I started running them down really fast. I picked one off, then picked a couple more off. Once I got into second and into open air, I could visually see myself getting closer. At that point, I knew that’s where I really needed to be, and I couldn’t let myself get taken off the top. Luckily, I got by Spencer for the lead before that red. Otherwise, he probably would’ve moved up and it could’ve been a different story.”
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 0.576 margin of victory over Bayston, McDougal, Avedisian and hard charger Jacob Denney who finished fifth after starting back in the 14th position.
“It was kind of fun,” Kofoid admitted. “I don’t want to say falling back is fun but having to dig your way out and finding something is kind of satisfying. I’d love to win it 10 times out of 10 running the cushion like that.”
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.
Furthermore, 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.
Spencer Bayston (Lebanon, Ind.) 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. That’s his best series result since a runner-up finish at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway on June 3, 2018.
“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. His car has been really good, he’s done a really good job and he was able to make it work. I was counting the laps and looking at the board trying to sneak one out here and pick up a win. But I’m definitely happy with second. We’ve made a lot of progress from where we were last night.”
Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.) provided five-time USAC Western States Midget entrant champion Six8 Motorsports with its best ever 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.
McDougal’s third was his best finish with the series since June 12, 2021 at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway while he gave the Esslinger powerplant a podium result in USAC National Midget competition for the first time in more than four years when Brent Beauchamp took second at the Southern Illinois Center in March of 2018.
“We tuned it to run the bottom after watching the B-Main,” McDougal noted. “These guys have poured in a bunch of time, and I’ve been a pain. So, it’s a little bit of a reward to be up here and it’s been a long time coming. I’ve always been really comfortable with these guys, but we’ve been fighting some small problems. We’ve stuck it out and they’ve figured a lot out for me.”
In Fatheadz Qualifying, Mitchel Moles recorded his third fast time of the season and 11th overall in USAC national competition, adding eight more in the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship throughout the campaign.
Additionally, in one of the wildest moments of the season, New Zealand’s Michael Pickens executed a clockwise corkscrew flip during the first lap of his qualifying run. Miraculously, Pickens landed back on his wheels and drove away scot-free without any damage to the racecar or to himself.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: November 23, 2022 – Merced Speedway – Merced, California – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval
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
(P) represents a provisional starter
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-25 Spencer Bayston, Laps 26-30 Buddy Kofoid.
**Michael Pickens flipped during qualifying. Kaylee Bryson flipped on lap 28 of the feature.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-2113, 2-Justin Grant-1868, 3-Thomas Meseraull-1659, 4-Cannon McIntosh-1639, 5-Mitchel Moles-1614, 6-Bryant Wiedeman-1602, 7-Kaylee Bryson-1521, 8-Jacob Denney-1269, 9-Brenham Crouch-1259, 10-Taylor Reimer-1234.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-201, 2-Logan Seavey-153, 3-Thomas Meseraull-152, 4-Brady Bacon-144, 5-Buddy Kofoid-128, 6-Robert Ballou-119, 7-Cannon McIntosh-114, 8-Kaylee Bryson-106, 9-Kyle Cummins-104, 10-C.J. Leary-98.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: November 26, 2022 – Ventura Raceway – Ventura, California – 1/5-Mile Dirt Oval
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Jade Avedisian (11.928)
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Mitchel Moles (11.947)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Jason McDougal
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Logan Seavey
Pit Stop USA Third Heat Winner: Ryan Timms
Rod End Supply Fourth Heat Winner: Brenham Crouch
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Taylor Reimer
Feature Hard Charger: Jacob Denney (14th to 5th)