By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Merced, California (November 24, 2021)………In crunch time, you’ve got to deliver the goods if you want to reap the awards.
Buddy Kofoid brought the hammer and nail to California’s Merced Speedway on Wednesday night and, ultimately, arrived one step closer to sealing up the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship in the penultimate round of the series.
The Penngrove, Calif. native took control of the feature with 14 laps remaining, then prevailed following a bevy of late-race restarts to score his sixth series victory of the season in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – TRD – Toyota/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
Kofoid’s ninth career USAC National Midget feature triumph equaled Billy Boat, Chad Boat, Tony Elliott, Justin Grant and Chuck Gurney for ninth on the all-time win list.
Most importantly, though, Kofoid extended his lead to 47 in the series’ title race entering the season finale this Saturday night at southern California’s Ventura Raceway for the Turkey Night Grand Prix where another standard Kofoid performance would cement a championship season.
Kofoid maximized his effort, and point total, to open and close the curtain on the evening at Merced, earning his long-awaited first career USAC National Midget fast time during Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying with a new one-lap track record run of 11.635, erasing the mark of 11.714 set by Carson Macedo 24 hours earlier.
Winning and winning often are two traits that make championship seasons easier to come by. After going more than five months sans a feature win, Kofoid broke through with a score at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway on Nov. 16 and one more for good measure, five races later.
And, speaking of breaking through, Kofoid’s Merced win included a hurdle that had stood in his way for over a calendar year after finishing 2nd in both of his two most recent USAC National Midget feature starts at the track dating back an entire calendar year.
“It’s really cool to get my sixth win,” Kofoid said. “We were close here last year, so I’m glad that we could be one spot better and pick up another win. We got some more points, which is crucial going into Ventura. But there’s nothing like winning; it’s pretty damn cool.”
Kofoid started his race from sixth while CB Industries teammates Jade Avedisian and Kofoid’s championship challenger, Chris Windom, occupied the front row. Windom nailed the start and tore around the outside of Avedisian to take over the top spot.
By lap seven, Kofoid had clawed his way to second with a slider of Avedisian between turns three and four. Avedisian, the 15-year-old Californian making just her sixth career series start, wasn’t gunshy on trading barbs with Kofoid as she countered Kofoid’s move with one of her own in turn one on the eighth lap, retaking the lead briefly before Kofoid got the last word a half-lap later in turns three and four on the cushion.
A lap past halfway of the 30-lap distance, Kofoid tracked down Windom, diving underneath the defending champ in turn three to occupy the spot briefly, but Windom turned down with great zeal and blitzed past Kofoid off the fourth corner to maintain the lead by a half-car length.
Suddenly, on lap 17, seventh starting Tanner Carrick became a player in the game, crawling the bottom to position himself in third place alongside Windom in turn two. However, Kofoid kicked a shine and split between the pair at the exit of two, promptly shooting out the other side and into the lead while Carrick slotted into second ahead of Windom.
“When Chris gets out front, he can set a really good pace himself and, sometimes, it’s hard to beat them when they’re in clear air,” Kofoid explained. “I felt like I could run the top really hard in turns one and two. If anything, I thought we were kind of even in three and four, then it just got too far around, so I just started sliding myself and picking it up off and it started to work. Luckily, (the track surface) started getting dark and I could see it taking rubber, so I got back up at the right time.”
Carrick’s thrill ride came to a crashing conclusion while running second, 1.1 ticks behind Kofoid, with only seven laps to go. At that moment, Carrick snagged the turn one cushion, sending him spiraling upside down over the banking and through turns one and two, to grandmother’s house we go. Carrick walked away unscathed.
While Kofoid decidedly had everything check at the front of the field, Avedisian cut in between the championship contenders on the lap 24 restart to put herself into second and in a prime position with a shot at becoming the first woman to ever win a USAC National Midget feature event.
Thomas Meseraull (17th) walked away from a lap 26 flip in turn two, setting up a restart with five laps remaining that saw Kofoid once again establish the alpha role as the leader of the pack while Avedisian and Windom tussled it out for second, each taking their respective turns in front of the other until both Windom (top) and Grant (bottom) simultaneously jetted by Avedisian for second and third at the exit of turn two.
Meanwhile, those two were just a distant note to Kofoid during the final stretch, stretching out to a comfortably pleasant 1.529 second victory over Windom, Grant, Avedisian and Logan Seavey.
Windom’s title defense now sees just a small glimmer of hope following Kofoid’s recent tear. Windom makes note of the little things that have compounded of late in comparison to point leader Kofoid throughout USAC’s western tour in November following the Canton, Illinois driver’s runner-up finish in his CB Industries/NOS Energy Drink – PristineAuction.com – K & C Drywall/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“They’re just on their game now,” Windom said of Kofoid and KKM. “We aren’t on top of it. I made a couple mistakes at Placerville, and we just haven’t been that good here. I felt really good the first part of that race, then we ran out of tire, and I was just barely hanging on for second at the end. Luckily, we still ended up second to keep it alive going into Ventura, but Buddy and his crew are on top of their game. They deserve where they’re at. We’ll go to Ventura, and you never know what can happen; we’ll give it our best.”
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) followed up Tuesday night’s Merced victory with a third-place result on Wednesday night after starting 17th on the grid in his RMS Racing/NOS Energy Drink – EnviroFab – Response Management Services/Spike/Speedway Toyota. He’s now finished five of the last six races on the podium and his 13-place advancement in the feature earned him KSE Racing Products Hard Charger honors.
“We were really just rolling the infield berm right from the get-go,” Grant recalled. “Our car was really good again, but we just got a little behind the eight-ball in qualifying, didn’t win our heat race and started pretty deep. My car would dig up off the corners really really hard. As we got to the front, those guys would start sliding each other, and when they killed their momentum off the corner, we could get them there and just go after the next one. The bottom kind of went away the last two laps and we weren’t able to get off turn four like we had earlier. But it was good night for us and everybody on this team.”
With her fourth-place finish, Jade Avedisian (Clovis, Calif.) became the fifth female driver to record a top-five finish in a dirt USAC National Midget feature event. She joins the late Jeri Rice, Sarah McCune, Holly Shelton and Kaylee Bryson as the only ones to accomplish the feat.
Tucson, Arizona’s Rice recorded a 5th place finish at Eagle (Neb.) Raceway in 1988. Perrysburg, Ohio’s Sarah McCune was a 5th place finisher at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois in 2003. Shelton raced to a pair of 3rd place results in 2017 at both Lawrenceburg Speedway during Indiana Midget Week and at Solomon Valley Speedway in Kansas.
Other top-fives earned by ladies throughout the history of USAC National Midget racing that occurred on pavement include Zionsville’s Bev Griffis, who finished 3rd at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1991, and Westfield, Indiana’s Stephanie Mockler who took a 3rd at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 2006 and 5th at Toledo (OH) Speedway in 2007. Taylor Ferns from Shelby Township, Michigan, took 5th at Fountain, Colorado’s Pikes Peak International Raceway in 2013.
No woman has ever won a USAC National Midget, National Sprint Car or Silver Crown feature. The best ever finish for a woman in a USAC National event was a 2nd, earned by Sarah McCune at a midget race at Winchester in 1999.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: November 24, 2021 – Merced Speedway – Merced, California – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – Midget Madness
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.635 (New Track Record); 2. Kyle Larson, 1K, Larson-11.754; 3. Logan Seavey, 25, Malloy-11.760; 4. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac-11.775; 5. Bryant Wiedeman, 01, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.789; 6. Carson Macedo, 21, Tarlton-11.798; 7. Shane Golobic, 17w, Wood-11.800; 8. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.830; 9. Chris Windom, 89, CBI-11.866; 10. Chase Randall, 19A, Reinbold/Underwood-11.866; 11. Jade Avedisian, 86, CBI-11.873; 12. Mitchel Moles, 07w, Wood-11.875; 13. Ryan Bernal, 87w, Wood-11.906; 14. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.915; 15. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.933; 16. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-11.933; 17. Ryan Timms, 85T, CBI-11.945; 18. Chase Johnson, 7NZ, BLS-11.947; 19. Justin Grant, 2J, RMS-11.969; 20. Maria Cofer, 57, Abacus-11.975; 21. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.982; 22. Jake Andreotti, 00, Davis-12.015; 23. Tanner Thorson, 19T, Reinbold/Underwood-12.020; 24. Emerson Axsom, 15, Petry-12.037; 25. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5, Petry-12.053; 26. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-12.066; 27. Jason McDougal, 5T, Alexander-12.081; 28. Chance Crum, 26, Rudeen-12.167; 29. Kyle Beilman, 31, Beilman-12.192; 30. Chase Elliott, 9, Larson-12.299; 31. Santino Ferrucci, 16, Dave Mac-12.440; 32. Zeb Wise, 37w, Wood-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Ryan Timms, 3. Kaylee Bryson, 4. Buddy Kofoid, 5. Ryan Bernal, 6. Kevin Thomas Jr., 7. Bryant Wiedeman, 8. Kyle Beilman. 2:01.46
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Tanner Carrick, 2. Carson Macedo, 3. Jake Andreotti, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Kyle Larson, 6. Chase Johnson, 7. Chase Randall, 8. Chase Elliott. 2:03.06
INDY METAL FINISHING THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Tanner Thorson, 2. Jade Avedisian, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. Brenham Crouch, 6. Shane Golobic, 7. Jason McDougal, 8. Santino Ferrucci. 2:03.02
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Emerson Axsom, 2. Maria Cofer, 3. Cannon McIntosh, 4. Mitchel Moles, 5. Taylor Reimer, 6. Chance Crum, 7. Hayden Reinbold. 2:02.10
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Shane Golobic, 2. Bryant Wiedeman, 3. Kyle Larson, 4. Taylor Reimer, 5. Brenham Crouch, 6. Jason McDougal, 7. Chase Johnson, 8. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9. Ryan Bernal, 10. Chase Randall, 11. Chance Crum, 12. Hayden Reinbold, 13. Chase Elliott, 14. Kyle Beilman, 15. Santino Ferrucci. 2:31.74
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Buddy Kofoid (6), 2. Chris Windom (2), 3. Justin Grant (17), 4. Jade Avedisian (1), 5. Logan Seavey (5), 6. Emerson Axsom (9), 7. Bryant Wiedeman (11), 8. Shane Golobic (12), 9. Tanner Thorson (8), 10. Ryan Timms (16), 11. Taylor Reimer (13), 12. Kevin Thomas Jr. (23-P), 13. Maria Cofer (18), 14. Chance Crum (24-P), 15. Jake Andreotti (20), 16. Cannon McIntosh (4), 17. Mitchel Moles (14), 18. Kaylee Bryson (19), 19. Brenham Crouch (15), 20. Carson Macedo (3), 21. Thomas Meseraull (21), 22. Tanner Carrick (7), 23. Jason McDougal (22), 24. Kyle Larson (10). NT
(P) represents a provisional starter
**Tanner Carrick flipped on lap 24 of the feature. Thomas Meseraull flipped on lap 26 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-16 Chris Windom, Laps 17-30 Buddy Kofoid.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-2515, 2-Chris Windom-2468, 3-Justin Grant-2317, 4-Emerson Axsom-2299, 5-Tanner Thorson-2247, 6-Logan Seavey-2141, 7-Thomas Meseraull-1959, 8-Kevin Thomas Jr.-1937, 9-Daison Pursley-1892, 10-Cannon McIntosh-1826.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-225, 2-Chris Windom-204, 3-Tanner Thorson-198, 4-Thomas Meseraull-178, 5-Brady Bacon-170, 6-Logan Seavey-163, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-159, 8-Robert Ballou-131, 9-Buddy Kofoid-122, 10-Shane Cottle-106.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: November 27, 2021 – Ventura Raceway Speedway – Ventura, California – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – 80th ARP Turkey Night Grand Prix
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
GSP Driving Performance of the Night: Thomas Meseraull
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Buddy Kofoid
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Chris Windom
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Tanner Carrick
Indy Metal Finishing Third Heat Winner: Tanner Thorson
Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner: Emerson Axsom
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Shane Golobic
KSE Racing Products Hard Charger: Justin Grant (17th to 3rd)
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Chase Johnson
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Maria Cofer