Buddy Kofoid continues breakout season with Hangtown 100 win

Kofoid Hangtown 100
USACRacing.com / Marc Miramontez

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid’s breakout season continued into mid-November with the biggest payday of his USAC career after winning two races in the 2022 Hangtown 100 weekend at Placerville (Calif.) Speedway and finishing third in the three-day opener. Saturday night’s feature win was worth $20,000 for the 100-lapper plus another $12,000 for finishing first in the points standings.

Last year’s winner of this race, Justin Grant also pocketed a career-high check of $20,000 in 2021, making this one of USAC’s most lucrative races. Kofoid finished second in 2021 after leading the most laps of 66.

Kofoid got the 2022 weekend started on a high note by finishing third in Night 1 and taking the checkers home from Night 2. That was his first victory since he earned his 10th win of 2022 in the 30-lap James Dean Classic at Gas City (Ind.) Speedway in September.

After his Gas City win, Kofoid stood on the podium in four of the next five races, which contributed to his points’ battle and kept hope alive throughout the fall schedule.

This is one of the biggest midget wins that I’ve gotten and, of course, $32k is pretty damn cool too,” Kofoid said in a series’ release. “That was a long race, and it was stressful. It’s hard to lead that many laps and know where you need to be or if you need to move around. When the track is this slick, it kind of brings the speed of everyone somewhat close together.”

Kofoid lost the lead twice during the marathon, as he and Cannon McIntosh argued over the position from Laps 49 through 55. Kofoid assumed the lead for good on Lap 56 and led a total of 95 during the event.

With this 21st victory, Kofoid surpassed AJ Foyt on the all-time series’ feature win list and into five-way tie with Ken Schrader among others for 30th.

Kofoid’s 12th win of the season made this the most successful single season by a driver since Rich Vogler won 16 in 1988. Kofoid is only the eighth driver to win 12 or more in a season in the series 67-year history. The record is held by Mel Kenyon with 17 wins in 1967.

McIntosh was Kofoid’s biggest challenger for most of the race before he jumped the cushion on Lap 70 and fell to sixth. He would lose one more position before the race ended.

Chance Crum climbed from 21st at the start of the race to finish in the runner-up spot. Last year’s winner, Grant grabbed the last spot on the podium with visiting Outlaw Carson Macedo in fourth and the 2022 Chili Bowl winner Tanner Thorson rounding out the top five.

“When you get to traffic, it’s not one car by themselves,” Kofoid said. “Then you get to the next car and there were like five all over each other.

“When I slid them, they raced me back and tried to race the guys in front of them. That made it a little bit tough, having to go back and forth with them. I haven’t felt great in traffic the last two nights, but I guess we’ve been good enough to get a win.

“You’ve just got to keep your speed up and not let their speed hinder your performance. A couple times, it did get a little bit tricky, and I didn’t know where to be but decided to stick with it and pounce on their mistakes and try to put as many cars as I could between myself and whoever was in second.”

Kofoid’s Hangtown 100 win is part of an incredible season for the 20-year-old driver. In 13 World of Outlaws races this season, he scored his first win in the premiere series in Night 2 of the Huset’s High Bank Nationals in June.  He won the BC39 in August and beat out NASCAR stars Kyle Larson and Chae Briscoe to do so. Also in August, Kofoid took home the inaugural trophy in Larson and Brad Sweet’s new High Limt Sprint car series at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville Ind.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”