By Richie Murray – USAC Media
SPEEDWAY, IN-Like father, like daughter.
On September 22 at Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway, Maria Cofer became one of the select few offspring to follow in their father’s footsteps in becoming a fast qualifier with the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship.
Maria’s father, Johnny Cofer, accomplished the same feat during the tail-end of the 1995 season when he set fast time at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway, setting a new track record which still stands to this day.
Next, Maria is set to take on a pair of USAC National Midget events this weekend, starting Friday night, October 7, at Wayne City, Illinois’ Wayne County Speedway and on Saturday night, October 8, at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind.
Now, the Cofers enter the weekend as just one of 17 parent/child duos to record a fast time with the series since its inception in 1956.
In doing so, they became the second father/daughter to tally fast times with the USAC National Midget series. Warren Mockler scored a fast qualifying award twice on the Illinois’ dirt bullrings of Godfrey Speedway in 1981 and Belle-Clair Speedway in 1982. Daughter Stephanie Mockler’s turn came in 2007 when she earned P1 in time trials on the pavement of Ohio’s Mansfield Motorsports Park.
Overall, the first father/child pair to achieve the mark was Gene and Ted Hartley in 1961. Most unusual about this case is that Gene, the son, set fast time prior to his father, Ted!
After winning the first ever feature in 1956 at the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Memorial Coliseum, Gene recorded his first USAC National Midget fast time in the third event of the inaugural season at Michigan’s Grand Rapids Stadium, a February event which was halted with 37 laps complete due to snow!
Ted, meanwhile, had to wait until November 1961 when he set quick time at the slightly more comfortable confines indoors at Ohio’s Cincinnati Gardens.
On four separate occasions, a father and his multiple children were fast-timers with the series. The first to do so was Tony Bettenhausen followed by his two sons Gary and Merle. Parnelli Jones sons, P.J. and Page, followed suit as well in the coming years. Jim Hines and his two boys, Ted and Tracy, all hit the top of the speed chart in qualifying during their careers. All three of these father/sons pairings – Bettenhausen, Jones and Hines – won USAC National Midget features as well.
Pancho Carter and sons Dane and Cole soon added their names to the fast qualifying list in the coming years. Dane and Cole set those marks under the watchful eye of their father, USAC’s first Triple Crown champion driver to capture a USAC National Midget, National Sprint Car and Silver Crown title in his career.
There’s been just one single instance of three generations from a single family emerging as USAC National Midget fast qualifiers. Gene Gurney notched his first in 1960 at California’s Kearney Bowl. His son, Chuck, tripped the timing light fastest overall on Valentine’s Day 1975 when he turned the quickest lap at the Oklahoma City Sports Arena. Gene’s grandson and Chuck’s son, Chuck Gurney Jr., made his historic mark on the timing charts and in the USAC record books with fast time at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 2010.
Next up on the USAC calendar are a pair of National Midget outings this weekend, Friday, October 7, in the 9th running of the Peoples National Bank Jason Leffler Memorial at Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Ill. and on Saturday, October 8, in the Harvest Cup at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.
Friday at Wayne City, the grandstands open at 5pm Central with the drivers meeting at 6pm and hot laps at 6:30pm with racing immediately following. Adult general admission tickets are $30. Kids 12 & under are free. Pit passes are $30 for members and $35 for non-members. Non-Wing Outlaw Micros, Restrictors and Junior Sprints will also be on hand.
Saturday at Tri-State, pits open at 3pm Central with grandstands opening at 4pm, the drivers meeting at 4:30pm and hot laps at 5:30pm with qualifying and racing immediately following. Adult general admission tickets are $25, students aged 13-18 are $20 and kids aged 12 & under are free. Pit passes are $30 for members and $35 for non-members. Also racing at the Harvest Cup are the Midwest Sprint Car Series and the Midwest Mini Sprint Association.