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Has The Next Great Chili Bowl Contender Arrived?

Buddy Kofoid is considered a perfect mix of both Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell

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It appears the next one has arrived.

Buddy Kofoid outdueled Kyle Larson to win the Tuesday night Chili Bowl Midget Nationals preliminary feature but it’s not that surprising if you’ve been paying attention.

The 20-year-old from Penngrove, California is the reigning USAC National Midget Series champion with 15 victories, but his emerging legend started in Tulsa two years ago. Then, he finished third to Christopher Bell and Thomas Meseraull.

That night, Bell said, "When I look at him, I literally, like, see me right here."

Bell said the then 18-year-old Kofoid was ahead of him because he had been racing at a high level in Sprint Cars before he was a teenager. He said that the sky was the limit for Kofoid and he was excited to see Keith Kunz Motorsports invest in his talent.

Kofoid moved one step closer last year when he finished runner-up to Bell in their qualifying night. Kofoid earned rookie of the race honors in 2020 and has finishes of 7th and 19th in his two Championship Saturday appearances.

Larson says he has known Kofoid since he was four years old and has watched him in their native California when he was driving box stocks and Outlaw Karts. Like Bell, Larson had been an advocate of Kofoid for over a decade.

"I remember like watching him at Lakeport (Speedway) when he was running Box Stocks and coming home and telling my dad that this kid is going to be extremely good," Larson said. "It’s weird, because I had to convince my dad and now we’re like the biggest co-advocates there are."

The Larsons got their way and paid for it on Sunday night.

Larson led the most laps from the pole, but just couldn’t get away from Kofoid, and finally lost the lead two laps after a Lap 23 restart. This was after Kofoid hounded Larson for 15 straight laps in traffic and just couldn’t find a way around.

"The opportunity never really came in traffic like I thought it would," Kofoid said. "The top started getting really treacherous in (Turns) 3 and 4 and it wasn't as fast as it was early on. So, I decided to try to roll the bottom and see if I could kind of keep up. I felt like I gained a little bit. …

"You know, in restarts I could try in (Turns) 1 and 2 on the bottom, but you don’t get a good angle into 3. So, the top in 1 and 2 is where I was comfortable and then 3 and 4 on the bottom."

It was inevitable that Kofoid would win a prelim feature, but to do it against the two-time reigning and defending Chili Bowl Midget Nationals winner was a statement. And before that, he was taking it to the previous winner in Christopher Bell.

Larson says Kofoid has the best character traits of both his Keith Kunz Motorsports predecessors.

"He is like a mixture of Bell and I," Larson said. "I would say, at times, he is way more aggressive than I am, but he can be smooth like Bell. The season he had in USAC, he's always in contention. He's young, but he has almost as much experience as I do because he's been racing Sprint Cars since he was nine years old. So, this isn't a surprise."

His team owner, Keith Kunz, also shepherded the early careers of Bell and Larson. He’s seen this movie before, and it included scenes with the Golden Driller on route to the NASCAR Cup Series career.

"He’s the best in the country right now," Kunz said. "Definitely in Midget racing, but he has this potential in any car he sits in right now. It’s just a matter of him getting the opportunity just like Kyle and Christopher did -- and he’s definitely capable of doing what they do too."

High praise, but certainly earned year after year, and approaching Championship Saturday.

Dave.com B-Features: Top 4 advance to the A-Feature.

B Feature 1 (15 Laps): 1. 29S-Hank Davis[3]; 2. 45X-Roger Crockett[2]; 3. 27-Briggs Danner[14]; 4. 9T-Tim McCreadie[6]; 5. 6A-AJ Bender[12]; 6. 92-Derek Hagar[7]; 7. 97A-Will Armitage[15]; 8. 41X-Howard Moore[8]; 9. 7MF-Chance Morton[1]; 10. 4R-Nick Barger[9]; 11. 1K-Brayton Lynch[5]; 12. 21M-Michelle Parson[16]; 13. (DNF) 11T-Tyler Baran[10]; 14. (DNF) 2ND-Jeb Sessums[4]; 15. (DNF) 4X-Carson Sousa[13]; 16. (DQ) 71-Steven Snyder Jr[11] **Snyder disqualified for rough driving.

B Feature 2 (15 Laps): 1. 73H-Hunter Schuerenberg[4]; 2. 15-Donny Schatz[1]; 3. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[2]; 4. 40-Colton Hardy[8]; 5. 8W-Kaleb Montgomery[7]; 6. 22W-Curtis Jones[5]; 7. 21G-Casey Tillman[12]; 8. 54-Matt Westfall[14]; 9. 71T-Zac Taylor[13]; 10. 22B-Troy Betts[6]; 11. 10-Kort Morgan[9]; 12. 68S-Corby Scherb[16]; 13. 91A-Chris Andrews[15]; 14. 68B-Jason Martin[10]; 15. 75A-Bryan Stanfill[3]; 16. 3-Roy Larkin[11]

A-Feature: Top 2 advance to Saturday's A-Feature.

A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 67-Michael Kofoid[2]; 2. 01-Kyle Larson[1]; 3. 89-Chris Windom[4]; 4. 55A-Jake Swanson[11]; 5. 7X-Thomas Meseraull[13]; 6. 71K-Kaylee Bryson[3]; 7. 27B-Jake Bubak[6]; 8. 8J-Jonathan Beason[10]; 9. 7U-Kyle Jones[5]; 10. 9T-Tim McCreadie[23]; 11. 45X-Roger Crockett[19]; 12. 73H-Hunter Schuerenberg[18]; 13. 19K-Riley Kreisel[7]; 14. 19B-Alex Bright[8]; 15. 15-Donny Schatz[20]; 16. 47-Zach Daum[14]; 17. 27-Briggs Danner[21]; 18. 29S-Hank Davis[17]; 19. 40-Colton Hardy[24]; 20. 7T-TJ Smith[12]; 21. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[22]; 22. 3N-Jake Neuman[15]; 23. 96-Cody Brewer[16]; 24. (DNF) 57W-Kaidon Brown[9]

Lap Leader(s): Kyle Larson 1-24; Michael "Buddy" Kofoid 25-30
Hard Charger: Tim McCreadie +13