By Alex Nieten
EASTABOGA, AL (March 24, 2023) – With Buddy Kofoid’s early season performance, it wasn’t a matter of if he’d win a World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car race this year, but when.
Entering this year, the two-time and defending USAC National Midget champion elected to return to his roots by focusing on a Sprint Car centric schedule with CMS Racing. The decision has already proven to be wise. Despite not being a full-timer, Kofoid had competed in all six Series races in 2023 entering Friday night’s event at Eastaboga, AL’s Talladega Short Track and tallied a pair of podiums and four top-10s.
The Penngrove, CA native made his imminent breakthrough into Victory Lane at Talladega with a dominating performance, leading all 35 laps around the red clay oval during his first visit to the track and the World of Outlaws first since 2011. The triumph marked his second career Series win in his 31st Feature start. Kofoid also became the second straight California “invader” to win after St. Helena, CA’s Rico Abreu topped The Greatest Show on Dirt last Saturday.
Kofoid’s numbers speak to his unquestionable strides in 2023. Entering this year, he owned 24 World of Outlaws starts and had collected a win, two podiums and five top-fives. In only seven starts this season, he’s added another victory, three podiums, and a trio of top-fives.
“They’re next level,” Kofoid said of his race team. “I owe it all to the crew. They’ve been plugging away. Brad Alexander, Stephen Hamm-Reilly, and Jakob Weaver, they do a hell of a job. I really enjoy racing with them right now. It’s been probably one of the most fun times I’ve had racing sprint cars in a while and standing up here (Victory Lane) makes it even better.”
The entirety of the race became a game of cat and mouse between Kofoid and four-time and defending Series champion, Brad Sweet. Early on, Kofoid jumped ahead from the pole and survived a flurry of early cautions by exceling on every restart.
Behind Kofoid, Sweet patiently worked on second-starting Rico Abreu before getting by on a restart with 28 laps to go. The Kasey Kahne Racing driver then set his sights on the lead and began to reel in the CMS #11.
It became a battle of two lines as Kofoid opted for the top around the entire track while Sweet searched on the bottom and middle grooves for grip. The driver of the Napa Racing #49 often found lanes that worked as he closed on Kofoid’s tail tank several times before Kofoid began to move around the surface.
“It seemed like every time I found a lane, he was able to kind of counter it,” Sweet observed. “It was a super technical race. The track was extremely hard to get ahold of. The track changed a lot, so you had to do a lot with your hands and feet, and the wings were trunked pretty quick.”
For Kofoid, he noted that his movement to different lanes was much more of an offensive tactic to navigate traffic than a defensive one.
“I wasn’t really catching the lappers a whole lot more,” Kofoid explained. “I kind of got within a half a straightaway of them and couldn’t get going more, so I just started railing the top in (Turns) three and four, and eventually I moved to the bottom and passed a guy. Then I was kind of even with the next guys, and I decided to run the middle when it started to look darker and got my wing back and could make so much more speed. I figured that was definitely the ticket right there.”
It was, indeed, the ticket as in the waning laps, Kofoid put a healthy gap between himself and Sweet. Ultimately, the 21-year-old took the checkered flag with a 1.238 second advantage.
“It’s a catch-22 in lapped traffic, you can put them away or it can hurt you and slow you down,” Kofoid commented. “Luckily, everything went well, and we brought a fast car this weekend.”
Sweet held on to the runner-up spot, his third second-place finish in the last four races. The result marked a noteworthy milestone as Sweet gained sole possession of 11th on the all-time World of Outlaws podium list with his 260th top-three, breaking a tie with Stevie Smith.
“He (Kofoid) just did a good job,” Sweet said. “I think I was better the first half or three-quarters of the race, at least really close. And then at the end, he just kind of found a lane and got a little clean air out in the middle there and got the top going.”
Completing the podium was Spencer Bayston aboard the CJB Motorsports #5. The Lebanon, IN native tallied his first top-three of the season to continue a recent strong stretch. Last year’s Rookie of the Year now has a 6.25 average finish in his last four starts. Bayston nearly made it a three-car battle for the lead on a few occasions but ultimately couldn’t’ find the right moment to capitalize.
“Through the race I felt pretty good,” Bayston said. “The track was starting to widen out, and things were kind of falling into place a little bit and started getting my wing back and really felt like we kind of hit our stride and got to traffic there. I felt like maybe I had once or twice to pull the trigger on Brad, but I just tried to be patient because I wanted him to get Buddy sucked back to both of us, but that didn’t ever develop. So, we’ll definitely take our third, very solid performance.”
UP NEXT: Next up for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars is a trip to Magnolia Motor Speedway tomorrow (March 25). For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, watch all the action live on DIRTVision.
A Feature (35 Laps): 1. 11-Michael Kofoid; 2. 49-Brad Sweet; 3. 5-Spencer Bayston; 4. 2-David Gravel; 5. 15-Donny Schatz; 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 7. 24-Rico Abreu; 8. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 9. 41-Carson Macedo; 10. 9-Kasey Kahne; 11. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 12. 8-Aaron Reutzel; 13. 9P-Parker Price Miller; 14. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 15. 17B-Bill Balog; 16. 7S-Robbie Price; 17. 11K-Kraig Kinser; 18. 24W-Garet Williamson; 19. 20G-Noah Gass; 20. 1A-Jacob Allen; 21. 47-Eric Riggins Jr; 22. 83-James McFadden; 23. 88-Austin McCarl; 24. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg; 25. 37-Bryce Norris