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VENTURA THANKSGIVING MIDGET GP – Part VI

VENTURA THANKSGIVING MIDGET GP – Part VI
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Photo: Albert Wong,  Tanner Carrick  (KKM No. 71k) leads Jade Avedisian, a 15-year old rookie in Chad Boat's No. 86, in turn three at Ventura Raceway during the 98-lap Thanksgiving Midget GP on Saturday, November 27.
 
 
LOS ANGELES – Michael “Buddy” Kofoid, from Penngrove, Calif. (near Petaluma), was 19 at the 80th running of the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series season finale on Saturday, November 27. He turned 20 on December 2. He told me he has always been called Buddy by family members as a youngster. I first spoke to him at a Ventura Thanksgiving GP when he was 14 and driving a 360 cu. in. sprint car in the Turkey Night GP support sprint car program. He paid his dues and gained experience in that tough field.
 
Buddy and his parents (who were present in the Ventura pits) said he began racing in go-karts as a youngster and moved up to sprint cars at age 11. He practiced driving a sprint car on a makeshift dirt oval on a friend's rural private property. There was internet video at the time of him practicing in a 360 sprint car. California did not allow anyone age 11 to race a sprint car. So Buddy and his parents traveled to Fernley 95A Speedway, a three-eighths mile, semi-banked clay track east of Reno. At age 11 in 2013 Buddy was a KWS Lites rookie of the year and champion with four feature victories and nine podium finishes. At 13 he was second in Western Sprint points and rookie of the year. He also won a 360 sprint A-main at the quarter-mile high-banked clay Cottage Grove Speedway in Oregon.
 
In 2015 he became the youngest driver at 14 to set the fastest qualifying time in a King of the West 410 ci winged sprint car. He won rookie of the year honors at quarter-mile banked clay speedways in Watsonville and Placerville, California. He was the youngest 360 sprint main event winner and youngest driver to win a Trophy Cup A-main at the annual Thunderbowl Raceway high-banked third-mile in Tulare. At 15, in 2017 Buddy won major 410 sprint series races at Watsonville and Chico, a banked clay quarter-mile. He also was a multi-time 360 Civil War Series A-main winner.
 
In 2018, Buddy won 410 sprint mains in New Zealand and was the summer nationals 360 champion. He set the fastest time in the World of Outlaws Gold Cup Race of Champions, won his heat race and trophy dash, had a top five feature finish, and top ten in the Trophy Cup. In 2019 Buddy became the third American to win the New Zealand 410 sprint car championship and won six features in a row. He became the Fremont (Ohio) Speedway 410 track champion and won an All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint feature in Ohio. He also won his first midget feature at Jacksonville Speedway in his first race with Keith Kunz Motorsports.
 
In 2020 (year of COVID pandemic restrictions) Buddy won three 410 features in New Zealand and became the Tulsa (Okla.) Chili Bowl midget classic rookie of the year by finishing seventh in Saturday's 55-lap A-main. He won 410 sprint features at Ohio third-mile banked tracks in Fremont and Attica. He also earned the USAC National Midget Series rookie of the year by finishing fourth in points. He scored three USAC National Midget victories and seven POWRi Midget Series main event triumphs driving the Mobil-sponsored No. 67 KKM Bullet by Spike chassis with a SpeedwayToyota engine.
 
In 2021, Buddy won six USAC National Midget mains in Ocala, Florida, Port City (Tulsa, Okla), Bloomington and Gas City, Indiana, plus Bakersfield and Merced, California. He won the USAC Indiana Midget Weeks Championship at eight Indiana speedways from June 3-12 and scored two victories. During a demanding 40-completed race schedule, Buddy and seven-time feature winner Chris Windom traded the series point lead during the stretch run. Five clay tracks in Arizona and California hosted the USAC series for eight events from November 12-27. The championship came down to the final race. All Buddy had to do was start the Ventura 98-lap main. He did so and won his first USAC National championship by 89-points over Windom. He finished a close runner-up to Logan Seavey in the prestigious Thanksgiving GP.
 
Buddy's 2021 USAC Midget driving championship in his second full season did not come easily. To expand his racing experience, he raced a late model stock car on July 25 at Elko Speedway, a three-eighths mile, high-banked asphalt track in Elko, Minnesota. A crash there resulted in a broken right wrist and a broken left foot. USAC Media reported he had a cast fitted to the curvature of his arm to allow him to steer a race car. He could not close his right hand all the way. His steering wheel received extra padding and cockpit adjustments were made.
 
Buddy proved his toughness by returning to racing and did not miss a race. He did not win while wearing the cast. However, he recorded two second place finishes and 12 top tens, including eight top fives, that enabled him to continue chasing the championship. Racing became easier for him at the September 24-25 twin 25-lap mains during the Eldora Speedway Four-Crown Nationals in Rossburg, Ohio. The cast was removed in October and Buddy became the sixth teenage national midget champion in USAC's 75-year history.
 
Buddy's NorCal roots, his early start driving sprint cars, his travel out of California to race at a young age, his early teenage success at various size tracks, and his championships as a teen remind people of a pair of fellow NorCal open-wheel racing prodigies. Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson followed a similar path and had similar success. Both stars won open-wheel titles and NASCAR Cup crowns.
 
I told personable Buddy after the November 27 Ventura driver autograph session that he will win a TNGP (he almost did that night). I told him he is the next Larson. Buddy replied, “I don't want to follow Kyle, I want to beat him (in NASCAR eventually).” Based on his natural racing talent, mental toughness, self-confidence, and continuing rapid rise in racing, I would not bet against Buddy doing just that in coming years.