Buddy Kofoid was keen on winning a USAC Indiana Midget Week feature in which he felt he earned, no ifs, ands or buts about it.
On Thursday night at Putnamville’s Lincoln Park Speedway, the Penngrove, Calif. native made that priority number one during round four of the series at the 5/16-mile dirt oval.
Three nights earlier at Circle City Raceway, Kofoid felt he inherited a victory, for all intents and purposes, when race leader Logan Seavey’s mount suffered mechanical problems just three laps from the finish line.
Three nights later at Lincoln Park, Kofoid took control of the narrative during the final 10 laps with a sudden surge to the front, using the high line to pick his way from fourth to first in a stream of succession, ultimately taking over the lead with nine laps remaining from Emerson Axsom.
The victory was the 24th in USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship competition for Kofoid, who equaled National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Billy Engelhart for 21st on the all-time series win list. In the process, Kofoid surpassed 23-time winners Christopher Bell, Pancho Carter, Tommy Copp, Kevin Olson and Billy Vukovich.
Out of those 24 wins, this one was, perhaps, among the most rewarding, having to earn it the hard way in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“I’m happy to finally earn it, if you will, on that one,” Kofoid exclaimed.
In what was intended to be a partial USAC Indiana Midget Week schedule from the get-go due to his sprint car racing commitments this coming weekend, Kofoid turned IMW into a practical ATM throughout his four-race stint with the series.
With two victories, a second and a fourth to his credit during the week, Kofoid made his Lincoln Park performance a fitting curtain call in what is intended to be his final Indiana Midget Week appearance of the year, forgoing the opportunity to become the first three-peat champion in the miniseries’ 19-year history.
Kofoid admitted it’s a mixed bag of feelings, having to leave the series while maintaining a 46-point Indiana Midget Week championship lead. But his brief reentrance to the series following a five-month hiatus from midget racing quickly showed that he had no rust whatsoever to shake off from beginning to end.
“It is kind of bittersweet,” Kofoid admitted. “It makes it hard to leave. I’d love to stay after the week we’ve had, but I’ll be back for more midget races. I guess it shows that I’ve still kind of got it, I guess.”
Emerson Axsom led the field to the green flag for the 30-lap main event, which was halted almost instantly when 20th starting Cannon McIntosh tumbled over the top of the turn one banking during the initial start. The incident knocked the Bixby, Okla. driver from the race, but he was able to walk away under his own power.
Axsom bolted out to the early lead when the matter at hand resumed and led the first eight laps without much confrontation. However, during that stretch, Wednesday night’s Gas City winner Logan Seavey was just getting wound up as he blitzed the banks and was just about to pull even with Axsom for the lead when the caution was signaled for a turn four spin and stop by Hayden Reinbold (19th) on lap nine.
Maintaining control up front on the resumption was Axsom. However, Justin Grant found a home on the bottom and crawled past Seavey for the second spot on lap 12. By lap 14, the trio all ran in a cluster, crossing the start/finish line three-wide with Grant low, Seavey high and Axsom cutting right through the middle to clasp onto the lead by a half car length.
But Axsom’s reign at the front was dethroned a single lap later when Seavey got his wheels rolling on the high line to surpass Axsom off turn four on lap 15, a near replay of the duel the same two waged just 24 hours earlier at Gas City. However, Axsom refused to go quietly into the night, digging in his heels and carving a pathway back into the lead on the 16th trip around the oval.
To that point, Kofoid was a mere afterthought, running a distant fourth. Seemingly shot out of a cannon, Kofoid suddenly grabbed ahold of an opportunity and the momentum from the top line. On lap 20, he sliced in front of Seavey in turn three for the third spot. On the 21st lap, he went to the perimeter and disposed of Grant for second with a massive run off turn four. On lap 22, Kofoid stuck to his guns and surged ahead with a run on the edge to beat Axsom by a car length at the stripe.
When the competition is congregated within a relatively same space, often the key is to go to a space everyone else isn’t occupying. Kofoid took that notion to heart, and promptly made his own plans and followed them through to the front.
“I figured everyone’s running the bottom, so I can’t follow them,” Kofoid logically offered. “I figured if I could run it through the middle, maybe I could pick up the crumbs on exit and out-speed them. I was like, well, I might as well try and go above it, then turn down and try to build up speed. It took a long time, but it finally worked. It got to a point where I could actually kind of run the top or even just under the cushion through the crumbs in (turns) one and two. Then I figured with how treacherous it was in three and four, if I got down, nobody was going to drive around me.”
Outside of a lap 24 yellow flag for a tangle between Brenham Crouch (19th) and Chance Crum (20th), there was no stopping Kofoid. Over the final seven laps, Kofoid incrementally and continuously extended his lead, closing out his victorious performance by a 0.842 second margin.
Kofoid was followed to the line by Axsom and Seavey while the RMS Racing team of Grant and Thomas Meseraull finished with their best results of the week, taking fourth and fifth, respectively.
It was second again for Emerson Axsom for the second consecutive evening in his Petry-Hayward Motorsports/Capital Industries – IPC/Spike/Speedway Toyota. The Greenfield, Ind. native brought it home as the runner-up once more after leading a race-high 20 laps in Lincoln Park’s 30-lap feature. For Axsom, it was his third career second place result during a USAC Indiana Midget Week feature event.
A repeat winning performance wasn’t quite in the cards for Logan Seavey on Thursday night at Lincoln Park. Nonetheless, his third place finish did pay dividends toward a pair of title runs. The Sutter, Calif. driver moved up to second in the USAC Indiana Midget Week point standings, and essentially holds the point lead with Kofoid’s impending absence expected for the remainder of the week. Seavey, the 2018 USAC National Midget champ, also elevated himself from fourth to second in the overall USAC Midget National Championship standings.
Furthermore, Seavey was also the night’s Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier in his Abacus Racing/Indy Custom Stone – CG CPAs – Dozer’z Nut’z & Bolt’z/Spike/Stanton SR-11x. Seavey’s 13th such fast qualifying effort moved him into a tie for 45th all-time in series history with George Benson, Jimmy Knight and J.J. Yeley. In doing so, Seavey surpassed the 12 career fast times garnered by Larry Rice and Josh Wise.