By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
GAS CITY, IN – Entering Friday’s penultimate round of USAC Indiana Midget Week at Indiana’s Gas City I-69 Speedway, all the chatter revolved around who could step up and carry on the streak that had a different driver and team winning a USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature in each of the last eight races, the longest such run of parity since 2009.
Buddy Kofoid and Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports put the kibosh on that discussion, placing a period on the streak and writing their own exclamation point with a wire-to-wire victory, leading all 30 laps to become Indiana Midget Week’s first multi-time winner and ending the succession of new names in the winner’s column that had begun two months prior.
Not only did the Penngrove, Calif. driver open up his lead in the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget series points to its widest margin of the season (68), he also rose to the top of the USAC Indiana Midget Week point standings, by a mere three points going into Saturday’s IMW finale at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway.
When he won the first race of IMW last Friday at Bloomington Speedway, Kofoid became the first three-time winner in the season-long series. Seven days later, he became the first four-time winner of 2021 in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – TRD – IWX/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“I’m pumped to be the first repeat winner and to have another good night after two not-so-stellar nights,” Kofoid said. “To get number four with USAC this year is pretty damn cool. Earlier today, we kind of struggled and barely made it through the heat race but we were able to sneak in and, where I qualified, that really put me in a good spot. I knew I needed to get the jump because our cars just worked so good on the cushion.”
That they did, as did he, starting from the favorable outside position of the front row on this night where he quickly established himself at the head of the class on the opening lap. Fourth starting KKM teammate, Daison Pursley, followed suit, shadowing Kofoid on the top until turn three when Pursley biked and nearly encountered what could’ve been wildly disastrous for the IMW point leader coming in. Pursley landed on all fours, and his early second-place running position was immediately consumed up by pole sitter Jason McDougal.
Smooth sailing for Kofoid throughout the opening laps allowed him to stretch his lead to nearly two seconds by lap four, and holding serve, until lap nine. Just as the leaders began to barge into traffic, seventh running Justin Grant slowed atop turns one and two to initiate the first yellow flag of the feature. Although briefly returning from the work area, Grant pulled back to the pits for good after leaving a trail of fluid around the racing surface, just as the field was headed for the restart, sending him to a 24th place finish.
Axsom slid his way into second place past McDougal in turn one on the ensuing restart. Cannon McIntosh valiantly took his shot at reenacting the same maneuver a lap later in the same spot but was rebuffed by McDougal who thwarted the attempt by driving around the outside to seal himself into third for the time being.
Another yellow, this time on lap 13, halted the proceedings once again as a four-car tangle consumed the exit of turn four, and involved Chris Windom (10th), Jerry Coons Jr. (12th), Hayden Williams (15th) and Bryant Wiedeman (19th), all of whom stopped. Only Windom returned, albeit briefly, before finishing 20th, his third straight finish outside the top-ten after finishing within the first 10 in nine of his first 10 starts this season.
Meanwhile, Coons’ early exit came during a monumental night which saw the USAC career Triple Crown champion make his 400th career USAC National Midget feature start.
When racing resumed, the fiercest battle was for third with a pair of Oklahomans in Pursley and McDougal exchanging slide jobs. McDougal initially lost the position on the 14th lap but managed to power back past and hold a firm grip on third while Logan Seavey slotted into fourth.
McDougal dug in and tracked down second-running Axsom for the runner-up position on the 19th lap, giving the Robert Dalby Motorsports ride its best outing yet this year. A slight hiccup on the 21st lap saw McDougal bounce like a basketball on the high line of turn one but showed no hindrance and remained on the gas in his pursuit of the elusive Kofoid.
However, Kofoid was in another zip code at this juncture, possessing a lead of 3.5 seconds with 10 laps remaining. Although, the waters did prove to be a little testy for Kofoid who found himself in a bit of distress as he sought to circumvent the lapped traffic in the final third of the race.
With a tricky cushion between turns one and two, to go along with the current traffic situation, Kofoid navigated with a bit of trepidation, not wanting to hit the panic button and charge course from where he felt most at ease, despite those in plain view out in front of him running two-wide and throwing sliders on each other for positions deeper in the field.
“Traffic really made it tricky,” Kofoid admitted. “I kept looking to my left to see if second, or whoever, would be there. I didn’t want to pull to the bottom because I hadn’t run there all race. I felt the top was faster. I tried a slider once and it didn’t quite work. I looked to my left and didn’t see anyone there, so I just tried to keep my pace up. That had me pretty nervous with the traffic. The top was the best line, obviously, and everyone’s going to naturally migrate up there.”
From start to finish, this night belonged to Kofoid who checked out on the rest of the field to win by a 5.852 second margin. However, on the final lap, trouble befell second running McDougal whose axle snapped halfway down the back straightaway. The sudden monkey wrench sent McDougal’s car into an immediate loop before stopping in turn three. The visibly agitated McDougal was relegated to a non-indicative 15th place finish at the checkered.
McDougal’s final lap misfortune meant a slight bump up the results sheet for everyone else behind him. Axsom finished second in the final rundown while Seavey, Pursley and McIntosh rounding out the top-five in the end. The lasting result produced a tightened points race which finds Kofoid at the top by a slim three-point margin over Pursley.
“I told (crew chief) Jarrett (Martin) that I kind of look at the USAC Indiana Midget Week points as a race,” Kofoid stated. “It’s better to be the guy out front and in control. I told him I’d kind of like to have (the lead) back going into the final night. We ran pretty good at the Kokomo Grand Prix and, hopefully, we can keep it up and get another win tomorrow and, more importantly, take home this USAC Indiana Midget Week title.”
Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) has an admittedly distant shot to win the USAC Indiana Midget Week title, 43 points behind heading into Kokomo on Saturday where he won with the series earlier this April. Consistently running up front will take care of the points situation in an orderly fashion and no driver has been as consistent over his past three starts during IMW than has Axsom with a 4th at Circle City, a 3rd at Lincoln Park and a 2nd at Gas City in his Petry Motorsports/FK Rod Ends – Iron Born Studio/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“I definitely want to win the championship, but I want to win races just as much,” Axsom said. “Running second to Buddy is no joke; he’s the best in the business right now. I thought we were close at the start, but I got a little afraid of dialing myself out with the shocks. If we want to win races, we’ve got to take chances. Tomorrow night, if we’re in the same position, I’ll definitely be making those changes.”
Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) advanced from 11th to 3rd in Friday night’s feature at Gas City to keep him among the prime contenders for the USAC Indiana Midget Week championship come Saturday night at Kokomo in his Tom Malloy/Trench Shoring – Rodela Specialty Fabrication/King/Ed Pink Toyota. Seeking his second career IMW title (2019), Seavey enters as the third-ranking IMW driver, just 12 points behind the leader, Kofoid.
“I’m just happy with our racecar,” Seavey said. “To get up to third after starting 11th is pretty good. I’ve just got to pick up the slack in the heat race and not put ourselves so far back. If we would’ve gotten through our heat race, we would’ve started in the second row or so. I’ve just got to put a full night together again; I haven’t done that the last few nights and it’s hindering our feature finishes. I’ve got to get a little better, but overall, it was a solid night and we’re still right there with these guys with one more night to go.”
Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) returned to the track after winning Thursday’s Indiana Midget Week event at Lincoln Park. Whereas he started from the pole at LPS, the road wasn’t as easy to hoe at Gas City where he started 20th and managed a solid 8th place finish despite the trying circumstances to earn the KSE Racing Products / Irvin King Hard Charger Award.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 11, 2021 – Gas City I-69 Speedway – Gas City, Indiana – 17th USAC Indiana Midget Week – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-12.191; 2. Corey Day, 47BC, Clauson Marshall-12.238; 3. Emerson Axsom, 15, Petry-12.266; 4. Logan Seavey, 25, Malloy-12.270; 5. Daison Pursley, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.272; 6. Chris Windom, 89, CBI-12.306; 7. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.318; 8. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.326; 9. Jerry Coons Jr., 85, Central-12.327; 10. Jason McDougal, 4, Dalby-12.339; 11. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-12.362; 12. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5, Petry-12.381; 13. Kyle Cummins, 3G, Styres-12.444; 14. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.473; 15. Cole Bodine, 39BC, Clauson Marshall-12.487; 16. Bryant Wiedeman, 01, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.493; 17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 17s, Clauson Marshall-12.549; 18. Blake Brannon, 40, Brannon-12.553; 19. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Dave Mac-12.568; 20. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac-12.577; 21. Justin Grant, 2J, RMS-12.589; 22. Austin Barnhill, 17B, Johnson-12.602;; 23. Trey Gropp, 00, Mounce/Stout-12.603; 24. Tanner Thorson, 19T, Reinbold/Underwood-12.620; 25. Hayden Williams, 1NZ, BSL-12.629; 26. Jonathan Shafer, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.672; 27. Brian Carber, 19, Hayward-12.720; 28. Sam Johnson, 72J, Johnson-12.764; 29. Chase Randall, 19A, Reinbold/Underwood-12.805; 30. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.807; 31. Travis Buckley, 7NZ, BLS-12.955; 32. Glenn Waterland, 11c, Waterland-13.554; 33. Oliver Akard, 41, OMR-13.759; 34. Chance Crum, 26, Rudeen-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Kyle Cummins, 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 5. Jerry Coons Jr., 6. Ethan Mitchell, 7. Chase Randall, 8. Hayden Williams, 9. Oliver Akard. 2:07.221
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kaylee Bryson, 2. Corey Day, 3. Jason McDougal, 4. Hayden Reinbold, 5. Austin Barnhill, 6. Blake Brannon, 7. Chance Crum, 8. Chris Windom, 9. Jonathan Shafer. NT
INDY METAL FINISHING THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Trey Gropp, 2. Brenham Crouch, 3. Thomas Meseraull, 4. Emerson Axsom, 5. Cole Bodine, 6. Brian Carber, 7. Taylor Reimer, 8. Travis Buckley. 2:09.922
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Cannon McIntosh, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Bryant Wiedeman, 4. Buddy Kofoid, 5. Tanner Thorson, 6. Sam Johnson, 7. Glenn Waterland, 8. Logan Seavey. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Jerry Coons Jr., 3. Tanner Thorson, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Hayden Williams, 6. Cole Bodine, 7. Chase Randall, 8. Jonathan Shafer, 9. Chance Crum, 10. Ethan Mitchell, 11. Brian Carber, 12. Taylor Reimer, 13. Austin Barnhill, 14. Travis Buckley, 15. Blake Brannon, 16. Oliver Akard, 17. Glenn Waterland. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Buddy Kofoid (2), 2. Emerson Axsom (5), 3. Logan Seavey (11), 4. Daison Pursley (4), 5. Cannon McIntosh (8), 6. Kevin Thomas Jr. (15) , 7. Corey Day (6), 8. Tanner Thorson (20), 9. Kaylee Bryson (7), 10. Thomas Meseraull (14), 11. Trey Gropp (10), 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (19), 13. Cole Bodine (17), 14. Chase Randall (23-P), 15. Jason McDougal (1), 16. Brenham Crouch (3), 17. Ethan Mitchell (24-P), 18. Hayden Reinbold (22), 19. Kyle Cummins (16), 20. Chris Windom (12), 21. Jerry Coons Jr. (13), 22. Hayden Williams (21), 23. Bryant Wiedeman (18), 24. Justin Grant (9). NT
(P) represents a provisional starter.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Buddy Kofoid.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-882, 2-Chris Windom-814, 3-Tanner Thorson-781, 4-Emerson Axsom-781, 5-Daison Pursley-758, 6-Justin Grant-748, 7-Thomas Meseraull-740, 8-Logan Seavey-730, 9-Kevin Thomas Jr.-680, 10-Cannon McIntosh-662.
INDIANA MIDGET WEEK POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-446, 2-Daison Pursley-443, 3-Logan Seavey-434, 4-Emerson Axsom-403, 5-Chris Windom-398, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-397, 7-Corey Day-383, 8-Thomas Meseraull-348, 9-Cannon McIntosh-347 10-Tanner Thorson-345.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Tanner Thorson-83, 2-Thomas Meseraull-75, 3-Robert Ballou-60, 4-Brady Bacon-47, 5-Kevin Thomas Jr.-46, 6-Chris Windom-44, 7-Justin Grant-41, 8-Buddy Kofoid-35, 9-Emerson Axsom-34, 10-Brian Carber-34.
INDIANA MIDGET WEEK PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Tanner Thorson-42, 2-Logan Seavey-39, 3-Hayden Williams-39, 4-Thomas Meseraull-37, 5-Emerson Axsom-36, 6-Brian Carber-36, 7-Daison Pursley-31, 8-Kevin Thomas Jr.-30, 9-Brenham Crouch-25, 10-Kaylee Bryson-25.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 12, 2021 – Kokomo Speedway – Kokomo, Indiana – 17th USAC Indiana Midget Week – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval