Gas City, IN – A thirty-three is just a number. But when it comes to USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship races, it’s more than “just a number.”
Steve Lewis’ long-standing record of 133 series wins as a participant was tied with car owner Keith Kunz, whose driver also won his own significant piece of history at Thursday’s James Dean Classic night at Indiana’s Gas City I-69 Speedway.
Penngrove, Calif. Kofoid earned his 10th win of the season, making him the first driver since Rich Vogler in 1988 to reach double digits in USAC National Midget wins in a single season.
USAC James Dean Classic at Gas City I-69 Speedway
For Kofoid, it was his second straight series win at the Gas City 1/4 mile dirt oval after notching his first during Indiana Midget Week in June 2021.
He did it all after starting eighth before climbing to the lead with 12 laps to go after a back-and-forth between him and teammate Kaylee Bryson on lap 19, then continued to the checkered flag aboard his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
Kofoid’s 19th career triumph moved him up another notch on the USAC National Midget all-time winning list. He is now tied for 35th all-time alongside Jerry Coons Jr., Tyler Courtney, Stan Fox and Jason Leffler.
To boot, Kofoid won it in style leading a KKM podium sweep with himself, Bryson and Brenham Crouch occupying the top three.
It was a particularly proud night for Muskogee, Oklahoma’s Bryson as she led a record 18 laps and finished second, which was the best finish ever by a woman in USAC National Midget competition. Sarah McCune also finished second at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in the 1999 season.
But, in the end, the night once again belonged to Kofoid who brought the team one step closer to an all-time record while closing in on a second straight series championship.
“I wanted to go into this weekend getting close or breaking Steve Lewis’ record,” Kofoid admitted. “It’s fun to be a part of it and have something else to pursue outside of getting double digit wins or trying to chase a championship again. It would be really cool to do that for KKM.
Still, it was Bryson who had the upper hand early on as she took the initial lead from outside the front row, but polesitter Crouch consistently darkened her rear bumper throughout the first seven laps until ‘on race 10 Bryant Wiedeman hit the three-cushion turn with his right rear tire, which flipped the car onto its left side and sent it flying four and a half times before landing upside down . The incident eliminated him from the contest, but he was able to walk away.
On the ensuing restart, race leader Bryson bounced back like a pogo stick through turns three and four. Crouch instantly fired inside Bryson while Kofoid took on the outside to make three wide at turn four. Moments later, Crouch encountered the same scenario at the other end, bouncing around turns one and two, which cost him second place from Kofoid.
After an unusual qualifying run for 12th place, Kofoid pieced together his evening by taking a victory in the elimination race, putting him outside the fourth row for the 30-lap feature.
From there, it didn’t take long for Kofoid to work his way up to the totem pole as he was fifth by the end of lap one, up to third by lap four and second with nine laps in the book. , but he suddenly hit a snag on lap 12 when a fully loaded Jacob Denney passed him for second. Kofoid reacted by cutting low on the running surface on the entry only to turn a U-turn later when he too bounced like a basketball straight into the rimmed Denney’s path. The two tapped wheels that sent Denney over the hill in turn two and all the way back to eighth by the time he found his marbles.
“It was kind of a night of ups and downs,” admitted Kofoid. “I didn’t qualify very well and then I felt very good in the qualifying race. I was good at feature film, then I didn’t feel so good, then I got back to it. Sorry about Jacob Denney. I messed up on the cushion and he got away with it, then I tried to slide him off and just missed the hole and bounced on him. It’s on me.
Kofoid picked it up and slid Bryson for the lead on lap 18, but Bryson waited and countered the move by dodging under Kofoid at turn two to regain the lead. Kofoid remounted it and attempted the same move in turns one and two on lap 19, which this time forced Bryson to check. Moving on to turn three, Bryson tried to return the favor, but made a jump in turn three which stopped his momentum and allowed Kofoid to run and say “sayonara”.
“I felt like it was hard to pick up speed on the pad,” Kofoid explained. “It took me a while to clean it up kind of like the heat race, and I figured if I got close I should throw (a slide job) right there. Sometimes it was too soon, and she got away with it. Then I finally rolled the cushion and just needed to get it to work without error with its size. Where I’m from I love tracks like this and it feels like it’s in my wheelhouse.
Kofoid rocketed out of the field over the final 10 laps, building up a 5.515-second lead until the checkered flag, crossing the line just as 19th-placed Blake Brannon suffered a cushion-top flip in the corners three and four. Brannon emerged unscathed while Kofoid emerged victorious over Bryson, Crouch, Chance Crum and Denney.
Seventh-placed Cannon McIntosh put in an outstanding performance after he rolled over on his qualifying run which prevented him from recording a qualifying time. Forced to start at the end of the course at the 23rd starting point, McIntosh advanced 16 positions. Fix them on the four spots he earned in his heat race, not just Bixby driver Okla. was the hard charger, he was also the ProSource Passing Master for the evening, earning him a $200 bonus.
Maria Cofer (Macdoel, Calif.) became the eighth woman to set Fatheadz’ fast qualifying time in USAC National Midget history to start the night. In doing so, she joined Taylor Reimer, Kaylee Bryson, Sarah McCune, Jade Avedisian, Sarah Fisher, Stephanie Mockler and Holly Shelton in this class.