FRESNO, Calif. — A recent month-long trip to New Zealand proved to be more successful than Michael “Buddy” Kofoid could have ever imagined.
The 17-year-old Californian shocked even himself by scoring six victories in seven sprint car races in New Zealand, including six straight to conclude his overseas adventure.
“I went into it (the trip) confident, I always try to stay confident and hope for the best,” Kofoid said. “I knew I was going to be driving good equipment for a good team and with a guy I’ve worked really well with in the past and we’ve had good success before.
“I didn’t expect it to go that well.”
Driving for team owner and fellow sprint car racer Daniel Anderson, Kofoid also had help from American sprint car team owner Doug Rutz as well as Canadian engine builder Jim Richmond.
The group launched Kofoid’s New Zealand campaign on Dec. 29 at Central Motor Speedway in Cromwell, New Zealand, but an engine issue forced the team to park the car prior to the start of the feature.
It would have been easy for Kofoid to feel defeated following that bad luck, but instead he stepped up and a few nights later on Jan. 1 he sped to victory at Central Motor Speedway. It was the first of six consecutive victories for the American hotshoe.
“The next six races we just put together tremendous speed and we always put ourselves in position to win, no matter if it was a heat race or a main event,” Kofoid said. “We were able to win six races in a row and the majority of them were big races that mean a lot to the people that live down there.”
Following his victory on Jan. 1, Kofoid rattled off three victories at Ruapuna Speedway on Jan. 13, Jan. 25 and Jan. 26. He then moved on to Riverside Speedway in Invercargill, New Zealand, where he collected his fifth straight triumph on Jan. 29.
Kofoid returned to Central Motor Speedway Feb. 1-2 for the final race of his New Zealand campaign, the New Zealand Sprint Car Title. Following a night of heat races on Feb. 1, Kofoid found victory lane in the Feb. 2 finale.
“It was probably one of the best times I’ve had in my life being down there,” Kofoid admitted. “It was a lot of fun. Besides the racing, getting to do these things is a lot of fun.”
The successful tour of New Zealand has Kofoid motivated for the start of his American sprint car season, which he estimates will include more than 60 races. He plans to run a few races for Rutz in California before he moves to Ohio for the summer to race for Ed Neumeister and the Linder family, where he’ll race mostly 410 sprint cars with the occasional 360 sprint car race thrown in.
“It has definitely given me a lot of confidence,” Kofoid said. “I’m going to run full time in the Midwest. The majority will be Ohio and we’ll do a couple out of state races.”
Kofoid said Carson Macedo suggested he reach out to Neumeister and Mike Linder, who helps manage Neumeister’s sprint car program, about driving for the team this year.
“I kind of just started talking to Carson and asking what’s out there, who could I possibly get ahold of. One of the names he gave me was Ed Neumeister and Mike Linder in particular. Mike kind of runs the program,” Kofoid recalled. “A few months later we put some races together and I actually did six shows for Ed and then we talked about doing more. It came down to them wanting me to drive the car for them full time, which is a huge opportunity for me.”
With a busy season ahead of him, Kofoid said he’s still incredibly thankful for the opportunity to race in New Zealand. He said he hopes to get back to New Zealand to race again at some point.
“I’m definitely really appreciative for all the things I was able to do and the people that give me those opportunities,” Kofoid said. “With the success we had it makes it a lot more enjoyable and it makes you try even harder to go for more and more and more. Six wins in a row is insane for me.
“I’d love to go back. But also I know that’s a long ways away, at least 10 or 11 months away. Right now, I’m going to be busy this year.”