NASCAR & Auto Racing

Michael Kofoid, 14, follows in racing hero’s tire tracks

At 14, Michael Kofoid is excluded from racing his Penngrove sprint car on some of the area’s tracks because of insurance regulations. But the youngster is making the most of his opportunities on the ovals where he’s been cleared to run.

Kofoid is third in the point standings in the 360 cubic-inch sprint car division at Placerville Speedway and second at Watsonville’s Ocean Speedway, which runs a Friday racing schedule. That’s a nifty feat considering he’s about 18 months away from earning his California driver’s license.

“We raced in Oregon last year and when we were looking to make our race schedule this year, we had to look at where he was approved to drive,” said Jennifer Kofoid, Michael’s mother. “Placerville and Ocean Speedway approved him right away, and our home track (Petaluma Speedway) then came along a few races into their season. But he’s done so well at Placerville that we decided to stay there and try for the championship. He’s also going for Rookie of the Year.”

Kofoid started racing Outlaw karts at age 5 and began racing a modified 360 in the King of the West Lites division as a 9-year-old.

At 14, Kyle Larson already had won a Civil War Sprint Car Series race and Kofoid wants to copy his racing hero. He easily holds his own against drivers who have twice or three times as many years of racing experience as Kofoid has been alive. Kofoid’s followed Elk Grove’s Larson since he started racing, he said.

“I look up to Kyle and I’d like to go to NASCAR at some point in my career, but I got to make all the stops in between,” Kofoid said. “NASCAR is definitely the No. 1 goal, but I’ll be driving a 410 cubic-inch sprint car this Saturday in Tulare for Dan Simpson Racing. The plan is to move up to the King of the West Series next season.”

Kofoid enjoys being the youngest driver and says the earlier you start racing, the better. A lot of the best drivers in NASCAR were dominating in sprint-car races and at an early age. NASCAR greats such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne learned in the dirt before launching lucrative careers on asphalt.

Kofoid was discovered by Rio Vista’s Dan Simpson five years ago and has since been his sponsor, working to develop the teenager into a force on the West Coast.

When not competing against the region’s best sprinters, Kofoid said he likes to do typical teenage stuff like swimming with friends at Lake Berryessa. But when his father, Michael, says it’s time to go his dad calls out “Buddy” instead of his first name.

“I’ve never heard my dad call me Michael,” Kofoid said. “Not even when he’s mad at me. That may sound weird, but it’s true. I’ve always gone by Buddy.”

Locals drag it out

The National Hot Rod Association returns to the Sonoma Raceway this weekend and the Sacramento region will be represented at the Toyota Sonoma Nationals.

In the Super Stock division, Placerville’s Rich Pinoski, Jim Rau (Sacramento) and Len Schneider will be racing the 1,000 feet to the finish line. Steven Barnes (Fair Oaks) and Randy Bursell (Auburn) have qualified for the Stock Eliminator brackets while James Finn (Rancho Cordova), Philip Nagel (El Dorado Hills), Pete Cerda (Elk Grove) and Nicholas Saetes of Sacramento are in the Super Comp brackets.

For more information, go to sonomaraceway.com.

Tiner goes north

Elverta sprint car driver Steven Tiner had a successful six-race stretch during the Western Sprint Tour Speedweek earlier this month. Tiner finished second behind Puyallup, Wash., driver Trey Starks by just three points, 499-496.

Tiner scored a pair of third-place A-Main finishes the first two days of the annual event that takes place at six different tracks in one week and followed that up with a pair of fourths and a fifth-place finish before an eighth place at the finale at Medford, Ore. Starks took the win on the final night, which propelled him past Tiner.

Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at editorwriter@att.net or @editorwriter001.

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