Buddy Kofoid
(Photo: Adam Fenwick/NASCAR)

Truck debut the next step for dirt-racing star Buddy Kofoid and his NASCAR dreams

Buddy Kofoid’s long-term goal has never been a secret.

Someday, the 20-year-old wants to race in the NASCAR Cup Series, just like his idol, Dale Earnhardt Jr., once did.

“My goal has always been to get to NASCAR,” said Kofoid, a Toyota Racing Development driver from Penngrove, California. “I’ve said it a handful of times that I can remember as far back, maybe when I started racing myself, I always watching NASCAR on Sundays and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. was my hero and he still is.

“As a young kid I’d be like, ‘I want to be like Dale Jr. I want to race where he is at.’ That goal and dream has never changed. I still want to get to Cup and that’s still my No. 1 priority.”

This Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kofoid will take a big step toward that goal when he debuts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driving the No. 51 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro for Kyle Busch Motorsports during the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

“To run in NASCAR period is huge and probably one of my biggest opportunities to date for sure,” Kofoid said. “To do it for KBM and the best truck or one of the best trucks out there and to do it with Toyota and have Mobil 1 still be involved is very special to me.”

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For the uninitiated, Kofoid is one of the rising stars of open-wheel dirt racing. He’s the defending USAC National Midget Series champion, a title he claimed last year despite recovering from a broken right wrist and broken left foot sustained during a crash while racing an asphalt Late Model.

He burst onto the dirt-racing scene in 2016 when, at the age of 14, he won a sprint-car feature during the popular Trophy Cup event at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, California.

He hasn’t slowed down much since. He has won in almost every form of race car he has driven to date, including scoring a winged sprint car victory last Saturday night at Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown, Pennsylvania.

While he has enjoyed great success in his racing escapades to date, Kofoid knows his first foray into NASCAR is going to be wildly different than anything he has faced so far during his young career.

Despite having plenty of dirt-racing experience on his resume, Kofoid has never raced anything as heavy as the trucks that compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and believes there will be a steep learning curve involved as a result.

“It’s just a different dynamic,” Kofoid said. “I think getting used to the weight will be kind of tough. The weight difference is kind of tough. They’re at least twice the weight of a winged sprint car and probably close to three times the weight of a midget. It’s just a big difference.

“When you get them sideways it seems like there is a breaking point to where you just can’t save it if you get too sideways. So you’ve still kind of got to drive it with a pavement state of mind.”

When it came to announcing Kofoid’s participation in the Truck Series race at Bristol, Toyota and Kyle Busch Motorsports decided to have a bit of fun by filming an announcement video that featured Kofoid mimicking lines and scenes from the movie ‘Elf’ that starred Will Ferrell as the titular character.

“The funny thing was I had never seen … Elf and they knew that,” Kofoid said. “So the day before I did that they said, ‘OK, here’s your homework. You’ve got to watch the movie.’ So I watched the movie for the first time the day before we made that.”

The announcement video was filmed inside the Kyle Busch Motorsports shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, which allowed Kofoid to tour the shop and get to know some of the people he’ll be working with at Bristol this weekend.

He knows he’ll be working with one of the best teams in the Truck Series, which gives him confidence going into his debut. He’s hopeful that will also mean a shot at a victory at the end of the race.

“I want to win,” Kofoid said. “It would be nice to start up front and maybe run up front a lot or at least be in contention and be a factor. Just be up there where people can see you. I’d love to run up front or have a good finish.

“Ultimately it would be huge to win, but I know it’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be tough. But if we’re good enough I wouldn’t say that is impossible at all.”