INDIANAPOLIS — Reigning USAC National Midget champion Buddy Kofoid kept saying he wanted to kiss the bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. First, he had to conquer the Speedway’s dirt.
Driving the No. 67 of Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, Kofoid did that in spectacular fashion Thursday night, outdueling Cannon McIntosh in a cushion-riding frenzy late in the Driven2SaveLives BC39 presented by WeatherTech at The Dirt Track at IMS.
The two drivers put on a thrilling show for the capacity crowd, exchanging the lead several times as the 39-lap main event wore on. The action featured both drivers using the highest portion of the track for grip, so much so that bouncing off the Turn 4 wall became part of their path.
On the final lap, Kofoid scooted away from McIntosh when McIntosh’s No. 08 machine of Dave Mac Dalby Motorsports bobbled slightly in Turn 2.
“This is the biggest midget win of my career,” Kofoid said before kissing the Yard of Bricks mounted in the wall at the finish line. “It’s something special, and I feel like it hasn’t even sunk in yet.”
Kofoid, a native of Penngrove, California, said he had to catch his breath after what he described as “almost giving (the lead) away on the last restart” as he again went breathtakingly high in Turn 4.
“I started ripping the fence and if I put (the car) upside-down, I put it upside-down,” he said, laughing. “Luckily, that didn’t happen.”
Of the frequent wall contact with his right-side tires, Kofoid said “some of it was intentional, some of it was an accident. A lot of the time it worked out, and luckily I didn’t get bit.”
Said McIntosh, who led much of the first half of the race: “It was fun racing with him there. I feel like we were able to push each other to the limit without going over the limit. That was a cool battle.”
Kofoid became the third “Buddy” to win a major event at IMS, following Buddy Lazier (1996) and Buddy Rice (2004) in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Thomas Meseraull, Zach Daum and Jacob Denney rounded out the top-five finishers.
The two-night BC39, held for the fourth year, honors the late Bryan Clauson, a five-time USAC champion who led three laps in the 2016 “500.” Clauson was the inspiration for this quarter-mile dirt track and the event that attracted 86 drivers this year, including several NASCAR Cup Series stars plus 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz. The 26-car main event featured reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, who finished eighth.
This event also promotes organ donation through the Indiana Donor Network. Clauson, who died in a racing accident in August 2016, saved five lives as an organ donor.
Before kissing those bricks, Kofoid joined the Clauson family in victory lane.
“We won at probably the coolest track in the world (with) great fans, and it was cool to see a packed house,” he said. “To honor Bryan Clauson and the whole Clauson family, plus Driven2SaveLives, it’s hard to put into words what that means.
“Also, (winning) $15,000 is pretty damn cool, too.”
Thursday’s action began with six qualifying races of 10 laps each. Winning were Jacoby Denney, Jace Park, McIntosh, Kofoid, Bryant Wiedeman and Kaylee Bryson.
In the main races, Mariah Ede and Rylan Gray were D Main winners, with Ryan Timms winning the C Main and Chase McDermand capturing the B Main.
Former USAC champions and NASCAR veterans J.J. Yeley and Ryan Newman were eliminated in the D Main. Chase Briscoe, who has won a Cup Series race this season, reached the B Main before bowing out of the competition.
The BC39 winner once again was presented with a winner’s wreath in the spirit of the “500.” The wreath included messages from organ recipients who have benefitted from the Driven2SaveLives campaign through the Indiana Donor Network.
Tony Kanaan, who wore the “500” wreath after winning at IMS in 2013, took a half-dozen exhibition laps around The Dirt Track at IMS. He said his goal was not to embarrass himself with slower lap times than those competing in the fourth annual event. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver said he hopes to participate in the BC39 next year.
“What a blast; I’m still shaking,” said Kanaan, whose only other time in a midget came during a 21-lap test on this track last month. “I think I looked good out there, but it’s a blast.”
Kanaan said car owner Tim Clauson, Bryan’s father, was worried that he was going to hit the wall, but that is what the dirt’s cushion is for.
“I like it because you don’t hit the wall,” Kanaan said. “I need a cushion next year at the ‘500.’ It will be much, much better.”