BRISTOL, Tenn. — Buddy Kofoid’s debut result does not reflect his weekend performance.
Driving the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Kofoid showed he can hang with the best in the Camping World Truck Series. The 20-year-old started Saturday night’s main event at Bristol Motor Speedway in 32nd, worked his way up to 17th by the end of Stage 1 on Lap 40 and then advanced to seventh come Stage 2’s end on Lap 90. Kofoid even ran within the top five during the final stretch before a late-race wreck on Lap 140 of 150 left him 27th on the score sheet.
“I wouldn’t say I anticipated it, but I knew we had a really good truck,” Kofoid said. “And my dirt experience, there’s time where I’ve had to come from the back and I’ve won races from last. It’s not easy to do, but it’s fun to do. …
“It was good to be up front and I knew we were capable of it. It was just a lot of stuff had to fall my way.”
Kofoid proved his capability Friday when he went from being a 33rd-ranked truck in the first practice to the fourth-fastest in the second. In his heat, he didn’t lose or gain any position. That’s what led to his lower starting position.
During the feature, though, Kofoid’s 66 green-flag passes tied for second most in the 36-entry field.
“I felt like I learned a lot really,” Kofoid said. “The funny thing was, it’s not easy by any means at all but it was a little easier than I anticipated as far as picking up speed. Getting in the truck for the first time (Friday) in practice, I felt like I opened up pretty good. And then we just got better and better.”
Kofoid was running fourth when he spun and collected Ty Majeski and Derek Kraus in the process. Ben Rhodes, who ultimately won, was making a pass on Kofoid with a crossover move when it happened. There didn’t appear to be any contact, but it looked super close.
Neither Kofoid nor Rhodes were exactly sure what happened afterward.
“I was really worried because I really like Buddy,” Rhodes said. “I hit it off with him (Friday), first time meeting him, and I think he’s a great dude. And obviously I didn’t want to see Ty (Majeski, teammate) involved. So I’m not sure what happened. I was told on the radio that we cleared him.”
Speaking of the in-race radio, Kofoid had Cup Series regular Christopher Bell in his ear, giving live advice and feedback.
About a week ago, Kofoid texted Bell for help this weekend. Bell didn’t hesitate. The two have built a relationship through their dirt-racing involvement. Last year, Kofoid actually drove Bell’s micro car at Millbridge Speedway in Salisbury, North Carolina.
“It’s really fun for me, No. 1, to get back to Millbridge and race with those kids because that’s how I started racing,” Bell said. “And I remember back in my day, it was Brady Bacon and he was the biggest guy that would come back and race. So for me, to be able to go back and race with them – and there’s some really talented young drivers coming up – it’s a lot of fun, and I hope it’s special for them to race against me.”
When asked about up-and-coming drivers, Kofoid was the first Bell named. Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie also provided unsolicited praise for Kofoid specifically. And obviously Kyle Busch believed in him enough to offer up a ride.
Saturday may have been Kofoid’s first-ever NASCAR race, but it surely won’t be his last. His 13.07 average running position should be considered a more accurate reflection of his overall work at Bristol. Not the ending alone.
“I would be a lot happier if I finished probably where I was running,” Kofoid said. “But, you know, it’s tough to get here. And hopefully, with how fast we were, that could bring me back.”