AMSOIL Sprints
Wednesday, 2 September 2020


Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) DB3 Inc. Photo


By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Speedway, Indiana (September 2, 2020)………Buddy Kofoid’s performance last weekend during Sprint Car Smackdown IX at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway turned some heads with three top-five finishes in what were his first three career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car starts.

A 4th place finish in Thursday’s preliminary was followed by another 4th on the second prelim night on Friday, then the Penngrove, Calif. native concluded the weekend with a 5th in the Saturday night finale.

Three consecutive top-five finishes to start off a USAC Sprint Car career is a rarity.  That got us (me) to wondering how rare of an occurrence this is.  A small sampling of just looking at the former USAC National Sprint Car champions shows just how few and far between performances like Kofoid’s are among even those particular drivers who achieved greatness throughout their careers.

Just three times has a former champion driver started his USAC National Sprint Car career with three top-five feature finishes.  Roger McCluskey, the 1963 and 1966 series champ, finished 4th, 1st and 2nd in his first three National series starts in 1961 for owner Mari Hulman-George at Reading, Pa., Williams Grove in Pa. and at Salem (Ind.) Speedway.  It should be noted that McCluskey was a Rookie with USAC in 1960, finishing 8th in Eastern and 4th in the Midwest standings when the USAC Sprint trail was divided regionally.

Gary Bettenhausen, the two-time USAC National Sprint champ in 1969 and 1971, showed his abilities right out of the box during the 1967-68 seasons for three different car owners in his first three starts!  Gary B took 3rd at California’s Ascot Park late in 1967 aboard the Knox & Hill No. 30, then opened up 1968 with runner-up finishes at both Reading, Pa. in A.J. Watson’s No. 2 and at New Bremen, Ohio for Willie Davis in the No. 24.

Three decades later, in 1998, the eventual 2004 USAC National Sprint Car champion, Jay Drake, was just getting his first taste of competition with the series after earlier winning USAC TQ Midget titles in 1990-91 and the USAC Western States Midget crown in 1996, and had already established himself as a premier racer on the USAC National Midget circuit, finishing 3rd in the 1997 standings.

Drake’s prowess during that ’98 Sprint season started on the pavement as he piloted the CED Motorsports No. 7c to a 3rd at Winchester, Ind., a 5th on the mile at Phoenix, Ariz. and a 4th at Indianapolis Raceway Park after setting quick time.

All drivers made their names in the sport in time with loads of race wins and championships, thus cementing their legacy within the sport and in USAC history.  One thing all had in common was a hot start to their career.  Only time will tell what Buddy Kofoid will end up accomplishing.  But so far, so good.

The listing below shows how all the USAC National Sprint Car champions fared in their first three career series starts.

This weekend sees Kofoid hop back into the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget where he’s seeking victory number one after four 2nd place finishes thus far this season through 17 starts.  This weekend presents a doubleheader for two consecutive nights of Midget racing action at the 1/6-mile dirt oval of Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex.

Pits open each night at 3pm ET with grandstands opening at 4pm, the drivers meeting set for 6pm and hot laps at 6:30pm.  Tickets are $20 for adults with pit passes $35 apiece.  Two-night tickets are now on sale at  Order early and you’ll receive a free USAC Midget T-shirt.  Outlaw Micros are also on the event card both nights.

You can watch both nights of USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget racing from Sweet Springs, Mo. live on FloRacing at



1961 Champion: Parnelli Jones (2nd, 11th & 3rd in 1961)

1963 & 1966 Champion: Roger McCluskey (4th, 1st & 2nd in 1961)

1964 Champion: Don Branson (3rd, 5th & 6th in 1961)

1965 Champion: Johnny Rutherford (11th, 5th & 6th in 1962)

1967 Champion: Greg Weld (4th, 9th & 1st in 1965)

1968 & 1970-1975 Champion: Larry Dickson (8th, 6th & 5th in 1965)

1969 & 1971 Champion: Gary Bettenhausen (3rd, 2nd & 2nd in 1967-1968)

1972 Champion: Sam Sessions (10th, 8th & 8th in 1965)

1973 Champion: Rollie Beale (12th, 13th & 14th in 1965)

1974-1976 Champion: Pancho Carter (11th, 11th & 16th in 1971)

1977-1981-1982 Champion: Sheldon Kinser (22nd, 2nd & 3rd in 1973)

1978 Champion: Tom Bigelow (7th, 12th & 9th in 1967)

1979 Champion: Greg Leffler (18th, 17th & 12th in 1973-1974)

1980 & 1989 Champion: Rich Vogler (14th, 24th & 11th in 1975)

1983 Champion: Ken Schrader (11th, 5th & 4th in 1981)

1984-1985 Champion: Rick Hood (2nd, 22nd & 1st in 1981)

1986-1987-1988-1990 Champion: Steve Butler (3rd, 17th & 14th in 1983)

1991-1992-1993 Champion: Robbie Stanley (6th, 16th & 10th in 1987-1988)

1994 Champion: Doug Kalitta (9th, 12th & 8th in 1991-1992)

1995 Champion: Tony Stewart (7th, 6th & 8th in 1991)

1996 & 1997 Champion: Brian Tyler (18th, 9th & 14th in 1990)

1998 & 2000 Champion: Tony Elliott (14th, 4th & 17th in 1982)

1999 Champion: Dave Darland (24th, 17th & 15th in 1986-1987)

2001 & 2003 Champion: J.J. Yeley (12th, 9th & 7th in 1997)

2002 Champion: Tracy Hines (9th, 4th & 9th in 1997)

2004 Champion: Jay Drake (3rd, 5th & 4th in 1998)

2005-2007-2009-2010-2011 Champion: Levi Jones (16th, 11th & 20th in 1998-1999)

2006 Champion: Josh Wise (21st, 6th & 1st in 2004)

2008 Champion: Jerry Coons Jr. (7th, 9th & 4th in 1999)

2012 & 2013 Champion: Bryan Clauson (3rd, 10th & 3rd in 2005)

2014 & 2016 Champion: Brady Bacon (5th, 3rd & 7th in 2006)

2015 Champion: Robert Ballou (14th, 20th & 15th in 2006)

2017 Champion: Chris Windom (15th, 18th & 22nd in 2007)

2018 Champion: Tyler Courtney (20th, 13th & 23rd in 2012-2013)

2019 Champion: C.J. Leary (20th, 14th & 13th in 2012)