From Richie Murray – USAC Media
Brandon, South Dakota (July 8, 2022)………Four…three…two…one is the familiar refrain for any type of countdown.
It also may have been the same phrase that was recurring in Buddy Kofoid’s mind as he counted down the final days leading into Friday night’s Huset’s Speedway USAC Nationals opener for the NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship.
But mainly, the countdown applies to Kofoid’s first four career midget feature starts at the Brandon, South Dakota 1/3-mile dirt oval. In his three Huset’s midget starts during 2021, the Penngrove, Calif. native recorded a 4th place result on night one, a 3rd on night two and a 2nd on night three.
Sensing a omen in numerology based on last year’s results and, judging by Kofoid’s prowess of the circuit this season, the trend had a realistic chance of continuation. Kofoid made sure of it despite starting all the way back in the 12th position for the 30-lapper due to a 12-car invert based on points accumulated throughout the night’s qualifying session and heat races.
“That was the highest invert they could’ve drawn, and I happened to be the high point guy,” Kofoid exclaimed. “I knew it was going to be hard with everyone who was starting up front and with only 30 laps to get it done. Tonight, you didn’t get the extra 70 laps like we do on Sunday.”
In start number four on Friday night, Kofoid raced to the front of the field with just 10 laps remaining to tally his series-leading fifth victory of the season in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota, providing car owner Kunz with his 127th series win as an entrant, moving him to within six markers of the all-time win record held by Steve Lewis at 133.
Meanwhile, Kofoid’s 14th victory moved him inside the top-50 all-time in terms of career USAC National Midget driver wins alongside Chuck Arnold, Jack Turner and Leroy Warriner.
Leading series Rookie Mitchel Moles showed the way early on from the pole position as he flexed by outside front row starter Justin Grant to maintain his presence in the top spot.
Commotion stopped the motion on lap three, however, as 19th running Maria Cofer got upside down in between turns one and two to bring out an early red flag. Cofer, celebrating a birthday on this night, was okay, but it turned out not to be the happiest of birthdays with a damaged racecar and an early exit to her racing endeavors for the evening.
Kofoid was in a hurry on the forthcoming restart and, by lap 10, was waging war with Thomas Meseraull in an escapade of sorts in a tedious tussle for fourth. Kofoid and Meseraull glanced wheels in turn one as Kofoid moved his way past Meseraull. As Meseraull regained control, he tapped Kofoid’s tail tank on the back stretch, which lifted his own front wheels to the sky as he slid over the turn three cushion on entry and subsequently lost substantial ground to Kofoid who was now on a Friday night cruise.
“The first few laps, our car was so good,” Kofoid recalled. “Nothing’s easy here but it’s just so easy to drive when the car is so nice. Jarrett (Martin), Shane (Marquez) and Tanner (Ashmore) have taken a lot of pride and put a lot of work into this car to make it drive that well and to be able to come from that deep. Man, I love Huset’s.”
Nearing halfway, the battle of the front was wicked with the top-four clamped down and thrusted into traffic. Attempting to navigate past the 21st running car of Kaylee Bryson, Moles became stifled on the bottom, which allowed Brenham Crouch to pull even alongside Moles midway down the back straightaway. Moles was able to re-clear Crouch while using Bryson as a pick in the third turn. However, suddenly surging Justin Grant entered the fray on the bottom while Kofoid was hammer down up top looking forward to a situation looming ahead that he’d normally dread, but not this time.
“Ever since I started in go-karts and in my early years of sprint car racing, I feel like I’ve always been really good in traffic and I actually feel like I’m champing at the bit for traffic,” Kofoid explained. “But once you get to the lead, you don’t really want traffic. I feel like we can just get through it well and our car is just so maneuverable.”
On lap 16, Kofoid shot around the outside of Grant for third at the flag stand, then on the 19th lap, slid across the nose teammate Crouch at the top of turn two for second, forcing Crouch to stand on the binders to avoid contact.
Full steam ahead, Kofoid put the challenge squarely on Moles for the lead with 11 laps remaining. Moles nearly ensnarled his CB Industries teammate, Jace Park, on the top between turns one and two. Kofoid, full charge, powered across the nose of Moles in turn three as Moles cranked his car sideways above the cushion, spraying rooster tails against the outside concrete in the process, possibly setting the stage for what transpired next.
Moles, still running second with eight laps to go, experienced a front end breakage on his ride, which pancaked the right side into the outside turn four wall. Moles, still on the gas, attempted to manhandle his car down the straightway in an effort to soldier on, but with the steering out of whack, he careened straight into the turn one wall and flipped over. He was okay, but a disappointing conclusion after leading a race-high 20 laps wound up in heartbreaking fashion.
Kofoid went untouched the remaining five laps while Grant hiked it on the turn two cushion on the lap 26 restart, which created a fast lane on the low line for Meseraull to shoot past and take over second.
That’s the order they’d finish up in a handful of circuits later with Kofoid 1.862 seconds ahead of Meseraull at the line while Grant, Crouch and Cannon McIntosh filled out the remainder of the top-five.
One year after winning the USAC Nationals opener on a green-white-checkered restart, Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) scored a solid runner-up finish in his RMS Racing/EnviroFab – Response Management Services – Engler Machine/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
It was another successful night at the office for Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) who earned his best USAC National Midget finish at Huset’s with a 3rd place result in his RMS Racing/NOS Energy Drink – EnviroFab – Response Management Services/Spike/Speedway Toyota. Grant has now finished inside the top-five nine times in eleven series starts this season while also adding his 11th straight top-10.
Last year on USAC Nationals opening night, Shane Golobic (Fremont, Calif.) set Fatheadz Fast Qualifying time and a new track record. On Friday night, he did the same exact thing with a new USAC Midget track standard of 12.718 seconds.
Feature Results (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses):
1. Buddy Kofoid (12), 2. Thomas Meseraull (6), 3. Justin Grant (2), 4. Brenham Crouch (4), 5. Cannon McIntosh (11), 6. Bryant Wiedeman (3), 7. Shane Golobic (10), 8. Logan Seavey (5), 9. Brady Bacon (9), 10. Taylor Reimer (7), 11. Chance Crum (8), 12. Trey Gropp (14), 13. Kaylee Bryson (21), 14. Jacob Denney (18), 15. Ethan Mitchell (17), 16. Jace Park (19), 17. Zach Daum (15), 18. Jade Avedisian (20), 19. Hayden Reinbold (23), 20. Blake Brannon (24), 21. Alex Schriever (25), 22. Mitchel Moles (1), 23. Chase McDermand (13), 24. Jody Rosenboom (16), 25. Maria Cofer (22). NT
See the full story and results:
Photo: DB3, Inc. / usacracing.com