Kofoid Conquers Western World Midgets

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Three-hundred-sixty-four nights earlier, Buddy Kofoid arrived at Arizona Speedway’s Western World Championships as a newcomer to the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget wars when he made his first series start in the event, finishing 22nd.

Three-hundred-sixty-four nights later, Buddy Kofoid became a Western World champion.

That accomplishment was realized Saturday night when the Penngrove, Californian led wire-to-wire from his outside front row starting spot, then withstood a steady challenge from previous night’s winner Tanner Thorson, as well as a late-race restart, to capture his second career series victory in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian/Mobil 1 – JBL Audio – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota at the event presented by San Tan Ford.

“It’s a good feather in my cap,” Kofoid stated.  “For Western World, this is the 53rd annual, and a lot of big names have won here, so I’m glad to add mine to that.  Nothing beats winning.”

Kofoid got the jump on the opening lap to rip past pole sitter Robert Dalby while KKM teammate Tanner Carrick followed in his wake on the high side just behind to procure second.

As Kofoid extended his lead to three-quarters of a second during the first third of the 30-lap feature, Clauson-Marshall Racing’s pair of machines each found their share of hardship, with 17th running Cole Bodine dropping out on lap 10 with a cloud of smoke surrounding his ride while, two laps later, fourth-running and point leading Tyler Courtney dropped off the pace and pulled into the infield with mechanical problems of his own, which wreaked havoc in his quest for a second consecutive series championship, dropping him to second in the standings.

As Kofoid carved his way through lapped traffic, one instance nearly spelled disaster with 13 laps remaining.  Kofoid attempted to slide past teammate, 17th place Brenham Crouch, in turn four when the two made contact, sending Crouch backwards into the outside retaining wall, closing the curtains on his night, while Kofoid continued unscathed.

Shortly after the resumption of the event, Carrick, who had run in the second position for the first 17 laps, began to fade then slow to a sudden halt when his left rear tire went flat on the 20th lap, forcing those behind him to take evasive action to avoid getting caught up in the ordeal.  The 2019 USAC National Most Improved Driver returned to the fray after replacing the rubber in the work area, ultimately finishing 10th.

Thorson was able to mount a challenge to Kofoid in the first couple of laps following the lap 20 restart, creeping to within a single car length of the leader on the bottom in turn two, but unable to edge ahead for the time being while Daison Pursley, showing no ill effects from his flapping right side panel, was hustling in third and ferociously shrinking the gap.

The first red flag of the weekend for the midgets occurred on the 24th go-around when 16th running Noah Gass took a vicious high flyer into the turn two catch fence before landing upside down on the surface of the 1/3-mile dirt oval.  The Mounds, Okla. driver walked away from the scene under his own power.

When the green flag dropped, Kofoid drew his car low into turn one while Thorson took to sweeping the top, then angling a slider into turn three, drawing closer to the lead on the 24th and 25th laps before dropping to the bottom in turn one on the 26th where he lost a parcel of real estate to Kofoid that added up to around a half-second when the second red flag of the night was displayed for 9th running Chase Randall who barrel rolled in turn four, ending his evening.

The incident set up Thorson in a fairly familiar spot.  Rewind to 24 hours prior when Thorson raced from third to the lead on the first lap of the restart during a green-white-checkered finish, one of whom he passed was Kofoid.  On this night, Thorson had one more lap and one less car to pass.  However, once Kofoid got rolling, he never allowed Thorson a chance at that opportunity as he blitzed away over the final three laps to finish out a 0.566 sec. victory.

Kofoid was followed to the line by Thorson, Pursley, Chris Windom and Spencer Bayston.

While Kofoid lamented the missed opportunity from the night before, he took that as a learning experience for he and the crew to find that little extra oomph to push them to the top.

“I was in a position to win last night,” Kofoid recalled.  “I knew we had good speed yesterday and we kept working on it.  I knew our slick track and main event set up was really good and we just improved on it a little bit.”

Kofoid had competed previously at Arizona Speedway over the years, one of which was an ASCS Southwest Region winged sprint car race where a couple years earlier in 2018, Kofoid battled a familiar foe who was on his side guiding him to victory this night in 2020.

“My crew chief, Jarrett Martin, is from 40 minutes away from here, so to get him kind of a home track win with USAC is really cool,” Kofoid said.  “It’s kind of funny, two years ago, him and I ran the Copper Classic together at this track, and then it wasn’t until this year, we realized we raced against each other.  I can’t thank the crew enough for all their hard work and Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, Mobil 1 and Toyota for a really great opportunity to drive fast racecars.”

Since Thorson (Minden, Nev.) joined Tom Malloy’s team in late September, the combination has clicked matter-of-factly with six top-five finishes in six tries with two wins and two seconds, which has brought him right back into the thick of the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget championship hunt aboard his Tom Malloy/Trench Shoring – Ed Pink Racing Engines – Rodela Fabrication/King/Ed Pink Toyota.

“It just shows how strong these cars are and the group of people that I have behind me,” Thorson said.  “With Reliable, Factory Kahne Shocks, Trench Shoring and Ed Pink Engines, I’ve got a pretty awesome piece behind me.  Everybody that is backing me and allowing me to do this, I can’t thank them enough.  We’ll take our speed over to Bakersfield (Speedway on Tuesday) and try to pick off one.”

Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.), who, like Kofoid, made his very first USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget start one year ago during Western World.  One year later, Pursley was standing among tall cotton after equaling his best career series finish with a 3rd place result in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian/Craftsman – JBL Audio – Mobil 1/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.

“To come home third to Buddy and Tanner is nothing to hang your head about,” Pursley admitted.  “It was my first time on a big track here and it’s a cool place.  I wish I could’ve have had a few more laps coming in.  I’m thankful for third and I can’t thank the entire Keith Kunz Motorsports team enough.  They put a good car together and I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to drive it.”

With Courtney’s troubles, a runner-up finish by Thorson and a 4th place run for Chris Windom, the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget points race has taken a drastic turn after Western World, and with now just three events remaining.  Courtney went from a 32-point lead to an 11-point deficit behind new leader Windom.  Thorson, who trailed by a distant 71 points entering Saturday, is now just 32 points out of the lead coming into the Tuesday, November 17 round at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway, the NOS Energy Drink November Classic.


USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP & USAC WESTERN STATES MIDGET RACE RESULTS: November 14, 2020 – Arizona Speedway – San Tan Valley, Arizona – 53rd Western World Championships Presented by San Tan Ford

FATHEADZ EYEWEAR/WOODLAND AUTO DISPLAY QUALIFYING: 1. Tanner Thorson, 25m, Malloy-15.201; 2. Chris Windom, 89, Tucker/Boat-15.341; 3. Tanner Carrick, 98K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.491; 4. Logan Seavey, 19A, Reinbold/Underwood-15.513; 5. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-15.564; 6. Chase Randall, 25, Petry-15.610; 7. Cannon McIntosh, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.615; 8. Andrew Layser, 82, Tucker/Boat-15.631; 9. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.675; 10. Robert Dalby, 4, Dalby-15.686; 11. Bryant Wiedeman, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.709; 12. Justin Grant, 5, Petry-15.716; 13. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-15.750; 14. Daison Pursley, 9, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.751; 15. Cole Bodine, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-15.751; 16. Spencer Bayston, 19s, Reinbold/Underwood-15.758; 17. Emerson Axsom, 15, Petry-15.781; 18. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.803; 19. Chase Johnson, 25c, Malloy-15.868; 20. Carson Garrett, 15x, Garrett-15.874; 21. Noah Gass, 20G, Gass-15.880; 22. Clinton Boyles, 98, RMS-15.913; 23. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.951; 24. Jesse Love, 97K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-16.032; 25. Jerry Coons Jr., 28, Dave Mac-16.045; 26. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-16.050; 27. C.J. Sarna, 20, Sarna-16.389; 28. Ryan Oerter, 43, Oerter-17.293; 29. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-NT; 30. Casey Schmitz, 00, MSW-NT.

SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS/EXTREME MUFFLERS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Spencer Bayston, 2. Robert Dalby, 3. Tanner Thorson, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Chase Johnson, 6. Clinton Boyles, 7. Logan Seavey, 8. Cannon McIntosh, 9. Jerry Coons Jr. 2:10.252

COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Emerson Axsom, 2. Daison Pursley, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Bryant Wiedeman, 5. Tyler Courtney, 6. Andrew Layser, 7. Carson Garrett, 8. Brenham Crouch, 9. Hayden Reinbold, 10. Ethan Mitchell. 2:09.586

AUTOMETER/ULTRA SHIELD RACE PRODUCTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Buddy Kofoid, 3. Kaylee Bryson, 4. Cole Bodine, 5. Tanner Carrick, 6. Jesse Love, 7. Chase Randall, 8. Noah Gass, 9. Casey Schmitz, 10. C.J. Sarna. 2:08.584

INDY RACE PARTS/INDY METAL FINISHING/ROD END SUPPLY SEMI: (12 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Cannon McIntosh, 3. Chase Randall, 4. Brenham Crouch, 5. Andrew Layser, 6. Clinton Boyles, 7. Noah Gass, 8. Jerry Coons Jr., 9. Jesse Love, 10. Hayden Reinbold, 11. Carson Garrett, 12. Casey Schmitz, 13. C.J. Sarna, 14. Ryan Oerter, 15. Ethan Mitchell. 3:13.982

FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Buddy Kofoid (2), 2. Tanner Thorson (6), 3. Daison Pursley (16), 4. Chris Windom (5), 5. Spencer Bayston (8), 6. Justin Grant (7), 7. Andrew Layser (13), 8. Logan Seavey (10), 9. Chase Johnson (19), 10. Tanner Carrick (4), 11. Bryant Wiedeman (14), 12. Thomas Meseraull (15), 13. Emerson Axsom (9), 14. Cannon McIntosh (12), 15. Robert Dalby (1), 16. Kaylee Bryson (18), 17. Hayden Reinbold* (23), 18. Chase Randall (11), 19. Noah Gass (20), 20. Brenham Crouch (22), 21. Clinton Boyles (21), 22. Tyler Courtney (3), 23. Cole Bodine (17). NT

* represents a provisional starter

**Noah Gass flipped on lap 24 of the feature. Chase Randall flipped on lap 28 of the feature.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Buddy Kofoid.

USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-1,619, 2-Tyler Courtney-1,608, 3-Tanner Thorson-1,587, 4-Buddy Kofoid-1,528, 5-Cannon McIntosh-1,376, 6-Daison Pursley-1,218, 7-Tanner Carrick-1,145, 8-Justin Grant-1,030, 9-Cole Bodine-1,005, 10-Andrew Layser-1,004.

OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-204, 2-Tanner Thorson-112, 3-Kyle Cummins-108, 4-Robert Ballou-101, 5-Logan Seavey-99, 6-Shane Cottle-96, 7-Justin Grant-90, 8-Cannon McIntosh-85, 9-Brady Bacon-79, 10-Tyler Courtney-78.

NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP/USAC WESTERN STATES MIDGET RACE: November 17, 2020 – Bakersfield Speedway – Bakersfield, California – NOS Energy Drink November Classic



Fatheadz Eyewear/Woodland Auto Display Fast Qualifier: Tanner Thorson

Simpson Race Products/Extreme Mufflers First Heat Winner: Spencer Bayston

Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Emerson Axsom

AutoMeter/Ultra Shield Race Products Third Heat Winner: Justin Grant

Indy Race Parts/Indy Metal Finishing/Rod End Supply Semi Winner:

KSE Racing Products/Rod End Supply Hard Charger: Daison Pursley (16th to 3rd)

Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Emerson Axsom

Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Jerry Coons Jr.

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QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. (Jan. 13) — Brian Shirley saw the situation one way. Ricky Thornton Jr. viewed it another.In the first controversial moment of the 15th annual Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway, there was simply no middle ground reached between the two drivers who saw their hopes for victory in Wednesday night’s 30-lap Super Late Model feature dashed by an early-race tangle.The pair of top contenders — Thornton logged finishes of first and second in the miniseries’s opening-weekend events while Shirley was just a bit behind with runs of third and fourth — were battling for third place on lap seven of the A-main when their evenings went awry. Shirley dived low entering turn one and slid up the track in front of Thornton, but Thornton clipped the left side of Shirley’s car and both drivers’ machines collected fifth-place Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M.After Thornton retired for a 22nd-place finish and Shirley soldiered on to place 17th in a race captured by Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., they stood in the pit area — separated by just a few stalls, in fact — looking back on the incident with differing opinions.“He saw his opportunity and took it,” Thornton said of Shirley, “and it pretty much didn’t work out.”“He could’ve hit the brakes, you know?” countered Shirley, pointedly questioning Thornton. “I don’t know what he’s thinking. I’m not saying it was all his fault because I did get in there hot, but it was because I wasn’t gonna hit him.”Shirley, 39, of Chatham, Ill., felt that he had cut his rival for position a break on the frontstretch and should have received the same treatment in return between turns one and two. The two drivers were charging hard in pursuit of second-place Jason Papich of Nipomo, Calif., with Shirley running high through turns three and four and Chandler, Ariz.’s Thornton sucked low until Thornton drifted toward the outside guardrail approaching the starter’s stand, prompting Shirley to abruptly cross over Thornton under the flagman and attempt a slider into the first and second corners.“Just coming off of four there, he was on the bottom and went straight to the wall, and I braked for him,” Shirley detailed. “Then I come down, cleared him like a mile, and he just come in there and doored us. They can watch the video. I never touched him.“I can hit the brakes, he can hit the brakes. I’m more disappointed because I braked for him and he couldn’t brake for me. It’s a two-way street.”From Shirley’s standpoint, his aggressive bid on Thornton was merely him reacting to the opening he was presented.“I made a move because when we were coming out of four, he pushed up,” Shirley said. “I was running the high side and he was running the bottom. He would’ve hit me if I wouldn’t have hit the brakes, so I moved down because I had the momentum to slide him. Instead of him turning back down to try and cross me back over he just ran into the left side of the door.“I don’t know what to say,” he continued. “I don’t know what I would’ve done any different. We wouldn’t have even been in the situation if he wouldn’t have pushed up out of four where I was already there. If he would’ve stayed on the bottom I would’ve went right by him without an issue, but he pushed out so then I had to figure out an exit plan.”Thornton, 30, certainly didn’t agree with the tactics Shirley decided to employ.“So I ran the bottom in three and four,” Thornton began. “I didn’t have all my speed down the front straightaway, and I kind of figured someone was gonna slide me. But then we entered and I thought we were good, and then he slid me, like, kind of late in the corner almost.“Watching the in-car (camera footage from his car), it looked like (Shirley) spun out, but, I think because he carried so much speed in the corner, he knew he was gonna destroy the wall so he tried to turn it sideways. When he did, he pretty much parked it (on the cushion), so then I had nowhere to go. At that point I was already back on the throttle. At that point there was no turning down or anything.”When Thornton contacted Shirley’s car, the right-rear deck and quarter-panel of Thornton’s SSI Motorsports Longhorn mount was pulled astray, leading him to limp into the infield with the sheet metal flopping along the track. Shirley’s Bob Cullen-owned XR1 Rocket was shoved into the outside wall before Scott slid into the back of both cars, eliminating him as well. Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., also slapped Shirley’s car as he passed by but was able to continue racing to a fifth-place finish.Thornton felt fortunate that his 3-race-old car escaped the crash with mostly cosmetic damage, but he was well aware that he lost an opportunity to move a step closer to the Keyser Manufacturing bonus dollars posted for winning three or more races.“It just ripped the whole right side off,” said Thornton, who, with three races remaining in the miniseries, remains alive for the bonuses of $10,000 (three wins) and $25,000 (four victories). “It got the body, left-rear shock, couple left-rear parts just from Stormy getting in the left rear.“It kind of sucks for that to happen, especially on lap six of the race or whatever it was,” he added. “I had a really good car. I took off and I was running hard, but not so hard that I was gonna kill my stuff.”While there was no love lost between the two drivers after the incident — a Thornton team member even expressed his displeasure by tossing a signal stick at Shirley’s passing car in the infield (the stick bounced off Shirley’s car and nearly struck a photographer standing nearby) — they were ready to move on to the concluding weekend of WWS action.“It is what it is,” Thornton said, “and we’ll get it fixed up and try again on Friday.”“Luckily it just looks like a lot of bodywork, but it still ruins your night,” Shirley commented. “We started 11th and was passing him for third so it wasn’t like we sucked. We’ve been trying different things, little bitty things every race we’re in. In the heat race I felt like we were horrible, and then, I hate to say, we just put the thing back to where it was when I won them races last year (three WWS features) and that’s how I went.“We’ll put it back together and hopefully next time circumstances might come out a little different.”

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