INDIANAPOLIS – To say that Buddy Kofoid joined an elite list of Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports drivers last season by earning USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series rookie-of-the-year honors with the venerable team would be a huge understatement.
Kofoid became the ninth KKM driver to end their first season in USAC midget racing as the series’ top rookie, following in the footsteps of Darren Hagen, Bryan Clauson, Kyle Larson, Rico Abreu, Christopher Bell, Carson Macedo, Tanner Carrick and Logan Seavey.
It was a big deal, and a statistic that Kofoid didn’t take lightly.
“It’s huge to be on that list,” Kofoid exclaimed. “As a rookie, it’s a big award. Obviously, the championship is the next big one we’re chasing, but you can only be a rookie once. To be the best one of the year is really special and, for a team like this and a series like USAC, there’s an endless list of names that’ve earned it. To have my name up there with them is really cool.
“For the speed that we had and the wins that we got, it’s really rewarding to validate it.”
Kofoid’s freshman year with USAC was spectacular, with 14 top fives and 22 top 10s while starting all 28 events during last year’s USAC national midget season.
That stat line also included three victories – at Sweet Springs (Mo.) Motorsports Complex, Arizona Speedway and Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway – en route to a fourth-place finish in the point standings.
Kofoid became just the seventh driver in USAC national midget history to earn Rookie of the Year, win at least three features and finish inside the top four of the final standings in a single season, joining Danny Caruthers (1971), Larry Patton (1975), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2007), Larson (2011), Bell (2013) and Seavey (2018).
It was his journey to take his first feature win that led the now 19-year-old Kofoid to an emotional victory lane celebration at Sweet Springs in September, following four runner-up results before capturing win number one at last.
That was something that the Penngrove, Calif., native chalked up to a progression of learning how to close out races in the discipline, with the competition tight every event.
The ultimate “finishing touch” came in Kofoid’s third win of the season in mid-November at Bakersfield, where he had to fend off the practically-unbeatable Kyle Larson down the stretch.
It was the lone night of the year Larson served as one of Kofoid’s KKM teammates.
“With the year Kyle had, he wasn’t really ever contested,” Kofoid explained. “It was cool to contest with him and catch him and race it out, and kind of take it from him, I guess. We had identical cars and we were working with the same people, so even if it was just one race, it’s cool to say I beat Kyle straight up. It’s a testament to Jarrett (Martin) and Grant (Penn) and the whole team for how good they’ve gotten our cars, and the KKM guys have got it going pretty good.
“Hopefully, we can carry that momentum, even from just the end of the season, and our Chili Bowl success and bring it into Florida.”
Like Hagen, Clauson, Abreu, Bell and Seavey, Kofoid hopes to translate his rookie-of-the-year honor with KKM into, ultimately, a USAC National Midget Series driving title.
In Kofoid’s eyes, anything less than a championship this year would be less than ideal.
“It’s fair to say,” Kofoid acknowledged. “I think we’re fast enough to do it; we’ve just got to be consistent for the championship and I think we were fairly consistent last year, but I think we could be a little more. We’ve just got to win even more, and I’d love to talk to everyone again as a USAC champion.
“That’s definitely my dream and all of us on this team’s goal to do that.”
Kofoid will begin his USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series championship quest in the series’ opening weekend Feb. 5-6 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
A dedicated practice night on Feb. 4 will precede the racing festivities.