By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Bakersfield, California (November 16, 2021)………One year earlier at California’s Bakersfield Speedway, Buddy Kofoid’s pursuit of victory required a late-race duel that went right down to the wire.
On Tuesday night, Kofoid made it imperative to put closure on his latest Bakersfield duel early and decisively at the 1/3-mile dirt oval.
Kofoid stalked racelong leader Emerson Axsom before making the attack, then reloaded for a second shot, which sent him straight into the lead for good 13 laps from the finish.
From there, Kofoid withstood three separate restarts following a late avalanche of cautions, which he successfully navigated to earn his fifth USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship feature victory of the season, and his first since all the way back on June 11 during Indiana Midget Week at Gas City I-69 Speedway.
“I knew getting off to a good start would be critical, but (Axsom) got me both times,” Kofoid remarked, referring to the initial aborted start followed by a complete restart at the green. “I tried a little bit of something the second time and it was still just a little hard to get going on the outside. He’s running the top on both ends, so I decided I’ll just try the middle/bottom in one and two and it kept sticking good. Early on, I felt like I wanted to flip over backwards because it was gripped up so much.”
In the big picture, Kofoid’s victory thrusted him into the series point lead over Chris Windom with six events remaining as he seeks his first USAC championship in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – TRD – Toyota/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
It was certainly a victory that had been a longtime coming for the Penngrove, Calif. native who picked up his eighth career series win, placing him 80th on the all-time list alongside Brady Bacon, Merle Bettenhausen, Tony Bettenhausen, Hank Butcher, Kevin Doty, Dan Drinan, Ronnie Duman, Brian Gerster, Kenny Irwin Jr., Eddie Johnson, Michael Lewis, Andy Michner and Josh Wise.
Interestingly enough, Kofoid became the first driver to win USAC National Midget features at Bakersfield in consecutive years since current KKM team manager/driver coach Jay Drake captured two-straight in 1997 and 1998.
Furthermore, the win was the 121st for car owner Keith Kunz who now stands just 12 behind Steve Lewis for the most all-time. It was the first victory for the KKM team since Daison Pursley reached victory lane on August 4 at Action Track USA in Kutztown, Pa.
In victory lane, Kofoid dedicated the victory to teammate Daison Pursley who remains hospitalized following a crash during a USAC National Midget heat race last Saturday night at Arizona Speedway, as well as injured team member Shane Marquez.
Kofoid began his venture from the outside of the front row and had an inkling that time and track position were of utmost importance right from the get-go and not something to let go to chance. However, Axsom got the upper hand through the middle early on in a contentious side-by-side battle that saw Kofoid able to edge ahead on the bottom of turn two each lap throughout the first third of the race only to fall short with Axsom’s outside momentum able to carry him back to the front.
Axsom, driving the blue-colored mobile instead of his normal red colored No. 15 after crashing it during a flip during last weekend’s Western World at Arizona, hele steady with a two-car length lead over Kofoid as the race crossed over the halfway mark and moved into the thick of lapped traffic.
On lap 17, Axsom became a tad too sideways on his entry into turn three, allowing Kofoid to subsequently shoot past underneath. Axsom, steaming right rear tire and all, countered and cut back underneath to reclaim the lead at the exit of turn four. Exactly one trip around Bakersfield Speedway later, Axsom clung to a slim advantage, and when sliding from the bottom of turn three to the cushion atop turn four, his car became slightly askew, which was the crack in the window Kofoid needed to establish himself as the leader when he raced by to lead at the stripe with a single car length of separation between he and Axsom.
“I was just kind of biding my time, waiting for traffic, and I feel like I can contend with people or snooker them a little bit in traffic if I’m there, and I was able to do that,” Kofoid explained. “Then, after that point, I just needed to move back to the top of one and two and just start running laps.”
Kofoid was, for all intents and purposes, became unattainable at that point, especially without a bevy of traffic to contend with out in front following a barrage of cautions, beginning on lap 22 with 14th running Ethan Mitchell’s ride going up in an eruption of white smoke.
World of Outlaws star and 2016 USAC National Midget Rookie of the Year Carson Macedo became the next victim of circumstance on lap 25 when the 12th running driver biked in turn three, then plowed into the outside wall and the catchfence with the right side of his car before coming to a rest on all fours.
Jade Avedisian was the final contestant to find trouble, doing so while she competed for the 11th position alongside Chase Randall with the white flag right in their sights, which wound up with her in the wall and the car tipped over on its side.
Although his 1.669 second lead was abruptly erased, Kofoid found no issue whatsoever resuming his voyage during the final green-white-checkered restart which he engaged without issue as he raced away to a 1.130 second victory at the checkered over Axsom, who used a last corner crossover to gain back the runner-up spot ahead of Grant in third. Tanner Thorson was fourth with Cannon McIntosh fifth.
Axsom’s second-place result was the Franklin, Indiana driver’s first top-ten finish in his past five starts with the series in his Petry Motorsports/FK Rod Ends – Iron Born Studio/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota. His second-place finish was his highest finishing position since Action Track USA back in early August.
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) felt a little more racy toward the end of the 30-lapper in his RMS Racing/NOS Energy Drink – EnviroFab – Response Management Services/Spike/Speedway Toyota as the track became more technical, barely missing the second position in the final corner as Axsom raced back by to claim the spot.
Two track records were broken during the evening with Cannon McIntosh earning his third consecutive Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifying time with the series, the most recent of which broke Bakersfield’s 26-year-old record for USAC Midgets at the track. McIntosh’s lap of 12.347 was just a tick quicker than Billy Boat’s time of 12.349, set in November of 1995.
Chase Randall, meanwhile, set a new 12-lap track record during the Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi-Feature, with his time of 2:31.417 breaking Brady Bacon’s record of 2:35.690 from 2017.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: November 16, 2021 – Bakersfield Speedway – Bakersfield, California – 1/3-Mile Dirt Oval – November Classic
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac-12.347 (New Track Record); 2. Chase Randall, 19A, Reinbold/Underwood-12.454; 3. Jade Avedisian, 84, CBI-12.511; 4. Ryan Timms, 85T, CBI-12.528; 5. Tanner Thorson, 19T, Reinbold/Underwood-12.528; 6. Jason McDougal, 4, Dalby-12.560; 7. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-12.574; 8. Justin Grant, 2J, RMS-12.582; 9. Chance Crum, 26R, Rudeen-12.595; 10. Bryant Wiedeman, 01, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.600; 11. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.601; 12. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.602; 13. Emerson Axsom, 15, Petry-12.607; 14. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.608; 15. Logan Seavey, 25, Malloy-12.616; 16. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.616; 17. Chris Windom, 89, CBI-12.646; 18. Tony Gomes, 73x, Ford-12.660; 19. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.664; 20. Cory Eliason, 26, Rudeen-12.674; 21. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.688; 22. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5, Petry-12.742; 23. Mariah Ede, 71E, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.752; 24. Carson Macedo, 21, Tarlton-12.796; 25. Michael Faccinto, 7J, Campbell-12.825; 26. Kevin Woody Jr., 10, Dave Mac-12.847; 27. Ben Worth, 5K, Alexander-12.890; 28. Maria Cofer, 57, Abacus-12.890; 29. Zach Daum, 9m, Bundy Built-12.941; 30. Chase Johnson, 7NZ, BSL-12.957; 31. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-12.999; 32. Dylan Ito, 73, Ford-13.092; 33. Blake Bower, 9, Boscacci-13.149; 34. Jake Andreotti, 00, Davis-13.224.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Tanner Carrick, 3. Emerson Axsom, 4. Tanner Thorson, 5. Cannon McIntosh, 6. Chance Crum, 7. Chase Johnson, 8. Kevin Woody Jr., 9. Jake Andreotti. 2:07.787
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 2. Bryant Wiedeman, 3. Tony Gomes, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Chase Randall, 6. Taylor Reimer, 7. Ben Worth, 8. Jason McDougal. NT
INDY METAL FINISHING THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Carson Macedo, 2. Logan Seavey, 3. Kaylee Bryson, 4. Jade Avedisian, 5. Ethan Mitchell, 6. Brenham Crouch, 7. Maria Cofer, 8. Dylan Ito. 2:06.941
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Cory Eliason, 2. Buddy Kofoid, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Michael Faccinto, 5. Ryan Timms, 6. Hayden Reinbold, 7. Blake Bower, 8. Zach Daum. 2:05.251
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Randall, 2. Cannon McIntosh, 3. Ethan Mitchell, 4. Ryan Timms, 5. Brenham Crouch, 6. Taylor Reimer, 7. Chance Crum, 8. Chase Johnson, 9. Kevin Woody Jr., 10. Dylan Ito, 11. Ben Worth, 12. Maria Cofer, 13. Jake Andreotti, 14. Blake Bower, 15. Hayden Reinbold. 2:31.417 (New Track Record)
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Buddy Kofoid (2), 2. Emerson Axsom (1), 3. Justin Grant (4), 4. Tanner Thorson (5), 5. Cannon McIntosh (11), 6. Cory Eliason (8), 7. Chris Windom (7), 8. Bryant Wiedeman (3), 9. Kevin Thomas Jr. (9), 10. Logan Seavey (17), 11. Thomas Meseraull (22), 12. Tanner Carrick (20), 13. Brenham Crouch (15), 14. Kaylee Bryson (19), 15. Ryan Timms (13), 16. Tony Gomes (18), 17. Taylor Reimer (16), 18. Chase Randall (12), 19. Jade Avedisian (6), 20. Carson Macedo (10), 21. Ethan Mitchell (14), 22. Michael Faccinto (21). NT
**Jade Avedisian flipped on lap 29 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-17 Emerson Axsom, Laps 18-30 Buddy Kofoid.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-2202, 2-Chris Windom-2198, 3-Tanner Thorson-2010, 4-Justin Grant-1996, 5-Emerson Axsom-1991, 6-Daison Pursley-1893, 7-Logan Seavey-1864, 8-Thomas Meseraull-1788, 9-Kevin Thomas Jr.-1753, 10-Cannon McIntosh-1604.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-201, 2-Justin Grant-188, 3-Tanner Thorson-184, 4-Brady Bacon-170, 5-Thomas Meseraull-159, 6-Logan Seavey-148, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-147, 8-Robert Ballou-131, 9-Shane Cottle-106, 10-Buddy Kofoid-101.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: November 18-19-20, 2021 – Placerville Speedway – Placerville, California – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – Elk Grove Ford Hangtown 100
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
GSP Driving Performance of the Night: Thomas Meseraull
Fatheadz Fast Qualifier: Cannon McIntosh
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Chris Windom
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Kevin Thomas Jr.
Indy Metal Finishing Third Heat Winner: Carson Macedo
Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner: Cory Eliason
KSE Racing Products Hard Charger: Thomas Meseraull (22nd to 11th)
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Chance Crum
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Brenham Crouch