Toyota Dirt Driver Spotlight: Buddy Kofoid

Toyota development driver Buddy Kofoid will begin the defense of his USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series title this weekend in Ocala, Fla. The 20-year-old Keith Kunz Motorsports driver will attempt to become just the fifth driver to win back-to-back championships in the last 25 years (Bryan Clauson, Jason Leffler, Jerry Coons and Dave Darland were the others). Since the beginning of 2020, Kofoid has registered 26 national midget feature wins, the most by any driver.

Buddy, what would it feel like to win consecutive USAC National Championships?

BK: “It would mean a lot to go back-to-back. Just joining those elite drivers would make it even more special. USAC is tough and if you can beat the guys running right now you know you’ve accomplished something.”

Did you ever imagine enjoying this much success by age 20?

BK: “I haven’t been able to really think about it. I just always try to look ahead to the next task. I’ve had a really good ride with KKM and there’s no one else I’d rather race with.”

You joined the team back when you were just 17. What have you learned at KKM?

BK: “Their work ethic is off the hook. Their organization and planning are just so cool to watch the process and how it all comes together. They’ve helped me on the midget side and overall have helped me broaden my horizons and knowledge. Working so close with Jarrett Martin, who’s been my crew chief for the last two years, we work really well together. Whenever I have a question, we just hash it out.”

KKM also is a big part of the Toyota driver development program. What does it mean to you to be a part of Toyota’s development program?

BK: “I feel incredibly fortunate. It’s not just about having top equipment and learning from the best, it’s also about the resources they provide at the TRD Performance Center – simulators, training, nutrition, etc. It’s pretty special. This means everything to me because I have been working towards an opportunity like this since I was five years old.”

Since you were five? Can you expand on that?

BK: “I started racing outlaw karts when I was five years old. We had some friends who had been in it for a while, and we got into it through them. I ran their car for about a year. I really enjoyed it and we decided to get our own car the next year. From there, we just raced as much as we could. My dad, mom and sister are huge supporters and sacrificed a lot for me to chase my dream. We ended up pretty successful at it and created a lot of great memories that I’ll never forget.”

Who were your racing heroes growing up?

BK: “I had a few. The first one is Steve Kinser. I was always a big fan of his and my outlaw karts were always white and silver with a red number 11 because of Steve. I’m still a fan today. I also was a fan of Kyle Larson growing up as he came from the same area I did, and he raced outlaw karts like I did. Then he went on to sprint cars and midgets and now he’s in NASCAR. Racing Cup is the only thing I ever wanted to do and still what I want to do today. On the NASCAR side, every Sunday Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. was my guy.”

You grew up watching Kyle Larson race locally. Who did you grow up racing against?

BK: “I raced with a lot of really good racers that I still race with today, either at the Chili Bowl or in midgets or sprint cars. I grew up racing against Logan Seavey, Tanner Thorson, Rico Abreu and a lot of really talented drivers who all moved on together. They were a little bit older than me, but we all basically came up roughly at the same time and it’s really cool to still be racing against them today – almost 15 years later.”

What are some of the things you love about dirt racing?

BK: “We have some of the best fans in the world. It’s cool to see the die-hard fans. For example, Midget week or Sprint Car week it’s just so great to see these fans who are so dedicated and travel with you from track-to-track. They’re super supportive and die-hard like we are.”

Your history has been on the dirt side, but last year you began pavement racing in late models. Can you compare running pavement to dirt?

BK: “Pavement compared to dirt is a completely different animal. The whole dynamic of the races and the strategy is huge. Finding that last tenth and knowing where it comes from is crucial. Line placement and roll speed are two big things that I feel was important for me to learn when adjusting to it.”

So, with adding pavement to your schedule, how many races do you expect to run this year?

BK: “I usually try to shoot for 85 to 100 races a year. This year, we’ll run 40 on the midget side in USAC and then probably 30 to 50 sprint car races. We’re not sure on how many pavement races, but hopefully we’ll get a handful there and it will put me at around 100 for the year.”

That’s a lot of racing at a lot of racetracks. What’s your favorite track?

BK: “Lawrenceburg by far. There’s just not a lot of tracks like it.  I enjoy it in midgets and sprint cars too. You can throw big sliders and the runs are huge.”

Obviously, you spend most of your time racing, but what do you do when you’re not racing?

BK: “I live in Columbus, Indiana, now about 10 minutes away from the KKM shop, so when I’m in town I just hang out with the guys and be at the shop with them when I can. We do Tuesday morning meetings and debriefs, so I always try to be there and be a part of that. Other than that, if I’m home, I’m just trying to take it easy and relax or get into the gym and get ready for the next race.”

Finally, the question everyone wants to know – how did you get the nickname Buddy?

BK: “When I was just a few years old, my dad referred to me as his little buddy and then it turned into him calling me Buddy. Now everyone calls me Buddy.”