A typical 17-year-old may spend most of his or her summer hanging with friends, enjoying outdoor activities and experiencing their first part-time job.
Teenage open-wheel racing sensation Buddy Kofoid is far from typical.
During this past summer, Kofoid, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Dec. 2, left his parents — Michael and Jennifer — and home in Penngrove, Calif., to pursue his dream of racing a sprint car in the Midwest.
By the time the calendar turned from summer to fall, Kofoid had recorded his first Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit Champions feature triumph, wheeled a Keith Kunz-prepared midget to victory at Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway and captured a sprint car championship at Ohio’s Fremont Speedway.
It was the latest leg of a racing journey that began before Kofoid was old enough to attend school.
“Before I started racing my family always had dirt bikes, and I got my first dirt bike for my second Christmas, which was a little after my second birthday,” Kofoid told SPEED SPORT. “We had a little track in our backyard, but we’d also go camping and riding, and we had friends that rode too. The racing really came along when I was about 5. I started racing outlaw karts a couple of months before I started kindergarten.
“One of our friends, their son was a couple years older than me and he was racing. They had a second car and I ran their second car for my first year,” Kofoid recalled. “After that, we thought maybe we should get our own car and do it more because we liked it and had fun with it.”
Kofoid quickly advanced through the various divisions of outlaw karting at northern California tracks such as Cycleland Speedway, often competing against — and beating — older drivers with far more experience.
“In an outlaw kart, you’ve got to be really smooth on the wheel and there is really tight racing. You’ve got to be smooth and smart,” Kofoid explained. “I raced with a lot of really great people in outlaw karts like Logan Seavey, Rico Abreu a little bit and Tanner Thorson. I was younger than most of those guys, but I got to race with them a little bit. There’s something about outlaw karts that teaches you to race a certain way. They teach you to be really aggressive, smooth and clean.”
Kofoid actually began honing his skills in a sprint car before his age reached double digits.
“In between racing karts, I got in a spec sprint when I was 9 and practiced at Marysville Speedway for a year,” he said. “A spec sprint is a non-winged, limited 360 sprint car. The next year we actually sold that car because we thought it was better to learn with a winged car. We bought a winged 360 and practiced that for another year at Marysville because they had open practices on Monday. That’s when I was 10.
“That’s where Dan Simpson discovered me, if you will. His crew and all of them were there and they were watching me. They were practicing with Danielle Simpson, who is Dan’s daughter and she raced at the time,” Kofoid continued. “At the time, Dan owned the King of the West series, which is now known as NARC and is a traveling 410 sprint car series in California. He also owned, and still owns, Fernley Speedway, which is a sprint car track in Nevada.”
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