At an age when the biggest behind-the-wheel adventure for most kids happens when their father allows them to drive a riding lawn mower, 11-year-old Michael (Buddy) Kofoid doesn't blink an eye at guiding a winged sprint car around an oval track at 100 miles per hour.
"I don't ever get scared," says the quiet, but confident, Corona Creek sixth grader. His mother, Jennifer, admits to being a little apprehensive watching her son zip around the track in competition with experienced adult drivers, but both she and Buddy's father, also Michael, have confidence in their son's ability to handle both the race car and himself. "I'm most nervous before the race until he gets out there and the green flag drops," the father says.
The family has every reason to feel comfortable with Buddy behind a wheel. He has been driving since he was five years old, beginning in Outlaw Karts competition. He has nine Outlaw Kart championships, seven perpetual-trophy wins and 100 A Main Event wins. He has raced in Outlaw Karts in California. Oregon, Texas and North Carolina — and he's not a teenager yet. By the time he was 8, he was practicing in a spec sprint car at the Marysville Raceway Park under the watchful eye of promoter Paul Hawes. When he was 9, he stated practicing in a 360-wing sprint car,
People took notice of the elementary school student crawling into a sprint car, and Dan Simpson, former King of the West Sprint Car promoter, invited Buddy to his test track in Rio Vista and then to his track in Fernley, Nev. Those runs led to Buddy being invited to drive in a new series at Fernley called the King of the West Sprint Car Lites.
Buddy went well beyond competing well — he won the series.
The resume is extremely impressive, but it doesn't tell the complete Michael (Buddy) Kofoid story.
It doesn't tell of his quiet confidence. It doesn't tell of his youthful enthusiasm and it doesn't tell of his passion for the sport.
His family gave him his start, but the decision to take it to the level Buddy has achieved has been all his. "We've given him choices and opportunities, but the decisions have been his," Buddy's mother explains.
"I love it," the driver says. When he was younger, he played soccer and baseball, but now it is all about racing. It is all about Outlaw Karts and back to Fernley to compete in sprint cars next summer for a sixth grader who has his goal set on some day driving on the NASCAR circuit. Buddy can compete in Nevada, but only practice in California because of differing insurance requirements.
Without using the word, Buddy says a key to his success is tenacity. "You have to have perseverance," is the way he puts it.
"You can't give up and quit. You have to go on."
His father has a little bit different take on his son's success.
"He is very smart on the track," Michael says. "He makes very good decisions."
"I just do what I need to do," Buddy explains. "There is no time to make mistakes. Some mistakes will cost you, and most of the time you can't make it up."