OCALA, Fla. – He may not have picked up a win Friday night during the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series opener, but Buddy Kofoid certainly proved he’s going to be in the conversation this year.
Kofoid found the outside groove at Bubba Raceway Park, drove to the race lead on lap 11, then hung on after a restart battle with eventual winner Tanner Thorson to finish third finish at the Florida half-mile.
While it wasn’t the victory that the 18-year-old Penngrove, Calif., native was looking for, it still offered him a solid start in points as he chases the USAC national midget championship as a series rookie.
“Third is a good start. We’ve come a long way, I think, since practice Thursday and qualified well,” Kofoid noted. “It was okay in the heat race, and then we made some changes and were actually really fast in the main; at least I think we were really fast early to where I could hang with those guys. I think I kind of messed myself up on that restart, and it kind of fell apart a little bit at the end, but I could stay with him and was good finding the top early.
“I wish we would have just went green to checkered, but it’s definitely tough,” Kofoid added. “Rhe lap traffic is kind of tricky, just with trying to figure out where to go, but overall third was good and hopefully we can be a couple spots better come Saturday night.”
Kofoid’s run Friday night was just his seventh career USAC National Midget Series appearance.
– It’s notable to mention that, even at just the ripe young age of 18, Kofoid is the elder statesman of the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports stable this weekend in Florida.
Fellow teenagers Zeb Wise and Cannon McIntosh are a year younger at 17, while Oklahoman Daison Pursley is the baby of the bunch at 15 years young.
Put the four side by side, and it makes for USAC’s version of the Backstreet Boys, doesn’t it?
– Speaking of Wise, the Indiana young gun climbed from 12th to sixth to earn ProSource Hard Charger honors on Friday night, making plenty of moves in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports No. 71.
Wise was quick to note that, had a rough qualifying lap not buried him in the lineup, he felt he could have finished even higher during the USAC National Midget Series season opener.
“It was tricky coming through there,” said Wise. “We made up for a poor qualifying effort and I managed to get to sixth, but you know, you’re racing with the best guys in the country and no matter where they’re starting, they’re good. It’s hard to make up speed when you’ve got a bunch of good guys in front of you. But we managed to grab the ProSource Hard Charter Award, and that $100 helps a lot.
“It does give us some confidence going into Saturday night, for sure.”
– Much like his teammate Wise, Cannon McIntosh also made some impressive moves during the first USAC event of the new season.
After impressing with a preliminary night win and a podium finish during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in January, McIntosh raced from 10th to fifth in his first appearance at Bubba Raceway Park Friday night.
McIntosh will chase the full USAC National Midget Series schedule for the first time this year.
– Polesitter Tyler Courtney couldn’t do much during Friday night’s season opener, a surprise for the driver who entered the season as the defending USAC National Midget Series champion.
Courtney fell back immediately on the start of Friday’s 30-lapper and never led a lap, ending up fourth at the finish for Clauson/Marshall Racing in the No. 7bc NOS Energy Drink Spike-Stanton SR11x.
– Robert Dalby, the reigning USAC Western States Midget Series champion, blew an engine late in Friday night’s feature, getting his full season of USAC national competition off to a rough start.
The engine failure meant that the Anaheim, Calif., native is done for the weekend, heading back to Indiana to regroup before returning for the Shamrock Classic in DuQuoin, Ill., in March.
– Saturday’s finale for the midget portion of Winter Dirt Games XI goes green at 6:30 p.m. with hot laps.