Friday, Feb 03

Baker’s Dozen: Buddy’s Record Breaking Season – 2022 USAC Midget Season Review

Wednesday, Nov 30 556
Buddy Kofoid’s first USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship in 2021 was a special one. In the immediacy of it all, he admitted that the feeling would be difficult to top.
 
However, when the prospect of back-to-back titles raced into his mind, he felt that he still had something to prove.
 
“I feel like that would cement myself in the record books of USAC,” Kofoid stated before the start of the 2022 season.
 
In turn, Kofoid put together one of the most spectacularly excellent seasons in the history of the series. Not to mention, it seemed fitting that the 67th year of USAC National Midget competition belonged to the Penngrove, Calif. native in car number 67.
 
At the finish line, Kofoid delivered a record-extending 12th entrant title to Keith Kunz Motorsports and the 10th for Curb-Agajanian. Kunz’s previous series entrant championships came in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2021.
 
In a dominant year from beginning to end, Kofoid became the first driver to repeat as champion since Bryan Clauson in 2010-11. He became the 12th to achieve the feat, joining such luminaries as Shorty Templeman (1956-57-58), Jimmy Davies (1960-61-62), Jason Leffler (1997-98-99), Mike McGreevy (1965-66), Mel Kenyon (1967-68), Sleepy Tripp (1975-76), Stevie Reeves (1992-93), Tony Stewart (1994-95), Dave Darland (2001-02) and Jerry Coons Jr. (2006-07).
 
A plethora of statistics showcase how resoundingly prolific Kofoid was throughout his 2022 season. Yet, possibly none are more pertinent than his win percentage.
 
Kofoid’s 13 feature victories in 32 series races place his win percentage at 40.63 percent. That’s the highest single season winning percentage in series history in terms of a driver’s victories compared to the number of total events on the schedule. The previous mark was held by Christopher Bell’s seven wins in 18 scheduled races (38.9%) in 2014.
 
Furthermore, Kofoid’s baker’s dozen victories on the year made him one of just five drivers to reach at least 13 triumphs in a USAC National Midget season, which trails only Kenyon’s 17 in 1967 and 14 in 1969; Rich Vogler’s 16 in 1988; and equaled the 13 triumphant performances Sleepy Tripp posted in 1975.
 
Kofoid got his work finished early as well, wrapping up the championship with three races remaining, and winning by a total margin of 203 points, the most lopsided difference between first and second since 18 summers ago in 2004, and the ninth most substantial point differential in series history.
 
The scalding late-Spring run by Kofoid reached the level of “white hot” after reeling off four consecutive victories at Oklahoma’s Port City Raceway as well as Illinois’ Tri-City Speedway and at Indiana’s Bloomington and Lawrenceburg Speedways, making him the first to win four-straight with the series since Kyle Larson between 2012-2013.
 
Kofoid’s second Indiana Midget Week title in as many seasons put him in exclusive company alongside Shane Cottle (2005-06) and Rico Abreu (2014-15) as the only individuals to reach the pinnacle of the annual weeklong Hoosier state mini-series in back-to-back seasons.
 
Using the cushion as a ramp and the outside concrete wall as a launching pad of sorts, Kofoid pulled out all the stops to win what he claimed as the biggest win of his midget career in August during the Driven2SaveLives BC39 at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
 
Closing out the season in November in his California homeland, Kofoid won three of seven, including a masterful performance at his home track of Placerville Speedway where he captured victory in the Hangtown 100.
 
Kofoid owned every statistical category with most wins (13), laps led (326), top-fives (27), top-tens (29), fast qualifying times (5) and heat race wins (9), which he shared with Thomas Meseraull and Bryant Wiedeman.
 
Despite all the honors and accolades from the prior year, this one was different for Kofoid, and the evidence was evident in the driver’s seat right from the word ‘go.’
 
“I felt like I was more conservative last year than I have been all year this year,” Kofoid acknowledged. “I still ran hard but, mentally, it felt different. This year, I felt a night and day difference. I feel way different as a driver, and I feel like our cars were better than they’ve ever been. I feel like I was better than I’d ever been in a midget. Even (crew chief) Jarrett (Martin) was as good as he’s ever been. That’s what it takes to win championships.”
 
Any sense of timidness on Kofoid’s part was displayed on his qualifying runs. In his first two full season with the series, he’d achieved only one fast time. In 2022 alone, he picked up five, tops in the series. Setting the tone early and often regularly put Kofoid in a favorable position, both mentally and on the starting lineups. The dividends of making all facets of his game function at max level brought a dominant championship season to fruition.
 
“It’s funny,” Kofoid laughed. “Last year, really the last two years, we’ve had trouble starting the night with qualifying. But I felt this year, we’ve been pretty good qualifiers and then we performed well in the heat races and in the feature, I felt like I could come from anywhere and have a really good chance at winning the race.”
 
A solid crew to work alongside is the backbone of any semblance of success in auto racing. Boasting the cream of the crop on their squad, with reigning USAC Chief Mechanic of the Year Jarrett Martin at the helm of his Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota, Kofoid has a prime set-up to do his job at the level he aspires to.
 
“Jarrett is on his game all the time and does not give up,” Kofoid praised. “I go back to when we use to live together when he’d bring all his notes home and he’d be out there until 10 or 11 o’clock at night after he got home from working on all our cars at 6 o’clock. He is definitely the man and is one of the main reasons why we are so successful, and I feel like our friendship has been a big part in that. We just clicked and I feel that’s what it takes to win championships.”
 
Among the other marquee headlines from a year of USAC National Midget racing came in the month of November at Placerville when Tanner Carrick notched his first series victory in three seasons, which was the 134th for the venerable Keith Kunz Motorsports team, breaking the all-time series record of 133 held by Steve Lewis.
 
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) earned his best career points finish with a runner-up placing in the standings. In April, he etched his name into the books as the first driver to capture three consecutive series feature victories to begin a season at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Port City Raceway. To cap off the year, Grant earned a hard-fought victory in the 81st running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at California’s Ventura Raceway. The victory made Grant the seventh driver to win both the season opener and closer in the same year, joining Parnelli Jones (1964), Rich Vogler (1984), Billy Boat (1996), Jason Leffler (1999), Tony Stewart (2000), Tanner Thorson (2020) and Justin Grant (2022).
 
In another series record, there was a lead change in 31 of the 32 feature events run throughout the year with only Thomas Meseraull leading in wire-to-wire fashion during a contentious contest at Tri-State Speedway during Indiana Midget Week. Meseraull tallied three wins and made his first career presence on the podium of the final series standings.
 
Three first-time USAC National Midget winners emerged in 2022 with Mitchel Moles scoring on three occasions, including in his first visit to Ohio’s Eldora Speedway in September. His sixth place finish in the standings rewarded him with Rookie of the Year honors.
 
Additionally, Jacob Denney became Ohio’s first USAC National Midget winner since Teddy Beach in 2005 when he collected his first series win during Indiana Midget Week at Lincoln Park Speedway. Meanwhile, World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car standout Carson Macedo picked up his first in a rare series start late in the year at California’s Merced Speedway.
 
Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.) won three times and finished fifth in the series standings for 2022, highlighted by his 100-lap effort at South Dakota’s Huset’s Speedway USAC Nationals in July.
 
McIntosh was also one of six drivers to start all 32 series feature events throughout the year along with Grant, Kofoid, Moles, Kaylee Bryson and Bryant Wiedeman. Late in the year, Kofoid and McIntosh became the second and third drivers, respectively, to record more than 100 consecutive USAC National Midget starts, reaching a stratosphere that only Tracy Hines had previously reached with 131 between 2009-15.
 
It was the most successful year for women on the USAC National Midget circuit. In September, Bryson (Muskogee, Okla.) led 18 laps and finished as the runner-up at Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway, equaling Sarah McCune’s second place result at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 as the best ever finish by woman in series history. Bryson’s run was the best ever by a woman on dirt, however.
 
Prior to the season, no woman had ever recorded four fast qualifying times in her entire career. In what was her Rookie year in 2022, Jade Avedisian (Clovis, Calif.) set fast time on four occasions. 
 
The storyline that made a buzz throughout the racing world came in June at Lincoln Park where the top-four fastest times during qualifying were turned in by four women: fast-time Avedisian, second quickest Kaylee Bryson, third fastest Taylor Reimer (Bixby, Okla.) and fourth overall Mariah Ede (Fresno, Calif.).
 
Bryson tied Holly Shelton (2016) for the best ever finish in the point standings by a woman, taking seventh in the rundown. Reimer finished 10th in points, making this the first time that multiple women have appeared inside the top-10 of the final standings. In June, Bryson also became the new all-time leader in USAC National Midget feature starts by a woman with her 54th.
 
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