Series News Release - USAC Media
As part of his initiation to the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship, Mitchel Moles has been required to make a plethora of first-time visits to a variety of racetracks in his Rookie season with the series.
On three separate occasions in 2022, he has been triumphant in his debut appearance with the series at a particular venue. First, there was July’s round at Nebraska’s Jefferson County Speedway. He then accomplished the feat for a second time in September at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.
The first time he laid eyes on Wayne City, Illinois’ Wayne County Speedway Friday night, the story remained the same as the Raisin City, Calif. native pulled off the season hattrick as a first time caller, first-time winner yet again, this time during the ninth running of the Peoples National Bank Jason Leffler Memorial.
In similar hattrick fashion, Moles led the CB Industries’ team’s latest rally by racking up the outfit’s third-straight series feature victory after a pair of wins in the two most recent events at Eldora two weeks prior.
By doing so, Moles continued the Leffler Memorial’s miraculous string of nine different drivers and nine different teams to have won the event in its first nine renditions.
As fate had it, Moles’ bid for victory was challenged throughout the high majority of the second half of the 40-lapper by the lone past Leffler Memorial winner in the entire field – Zach Daum.
In what was a slightly unexpected route, juxtaposed to his thrilling rim-riding style, Moles displayed the finesse, patience and grace of a seasoned veteran by remaining steadfast to the bottom of the racetrack as he carved out a route past Thomas Meseraull for the lead on lap 22, which sent him on his way to the $5,000 win in his CB Industries/PristineAuction.com – K & C Drywall – NOS Energy Drink/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“I knew right from the start of this deal that we were going to have to be patient,” Moles foretold. “I figured it was going to go to the bottom because the top gets tricky when it gets right up on the guardrail. Shane Golobic is pretty good at doing that. He actually taught me a lot about how to do this.”
Moles started third on the grid in the 22-car feature field, directly behind pole sitter Meseraull, whom Moles followed in the path of during the early stages as he slipped under Bryant Wiedeman for the second position on lap two.
Point leader Buddy Kofoid was the big mover early on as grazed the bottom to go to third on the lap four restart, then brazenly jumped to the topside. The move initially proved unfruitful for Kofoid as Daum stuck to his guns and his gameplan to blitz past Kofoid for the third spot on the seventh lap.
Kofoid remained the lone occupant of the top groove thereafter but saw Wiedeman glide past on lap eight with the two exchanging their grip of the position lap-after-lap. Wiedeman clipped the turn two infield tire on lap 15, forcing him into regathering mode. Kofoid surged past at the exit of turn four, then made a split-second decision to abandon the top, change course and get right back into line on the bottom in fourth behind the top-three of Meseraull, Moles and Daum.
At the halfway mark, Moles was able to pull completely alongside to the inside of Meseraull for the lead. Meseraull was able to stave off the challenge for multiple laps until Moles ripped it away from him on lap 22 after nearly getting caught behind the lapped car of Maria Cofer. Daum, likewise, followed suit to second underneath Meseraull on lap 24.
Suddenly, it was a top-two breakaway as Moles and Daum ran nose-to-tail for the top spot on lap 29, a half-straight ahead of Kofoid who was nestled into third. The verses repeated throughout the ensuing 11 laps as Daum never strayed further than a car length away from Moles’ rear bumper.
Just when all seemed written in stone and with Moles just two turns away from the score, 17th running Justin Grant climbed over a left rear and tumbled upside down while tussling for position in turn three, which put a halt to the proceedings, clearing the path to make it void of any traffic and, thus, setting up a green-white-checkered dash to the flag.
“Zach’s one of the best at running the bottom; he’s no stranger to it,” Moles acknowledged. “I knew if I stuck with my line and hit my marks, I’d be okay. The tires got pushed out, so it was really tough around turns one and two. I felt like I did a decent job at just maintaining and keeping myself calm. That hasn’t been one of the strong points of my career, but I’m learning.”
Moles couldn’t be contained on the final two ventures around the 1/8-mile dirt oval as he gapped himself slightly from Daum, who was unable to pull as close as he did just before the caution. Moles punctuated his drive with a 0.582 second margin of victory over Daum with Kofoid third, Meseraull fourth and Wideman rounding out the top-five.
The event honored the life and memory of Jason Leffler, the four-time USAC National driving champion (1997-98-99 Midget & 1998 Silver Crown) who lost his life in a sprint car accident at New Jersey’s Bridgeport Speedway in June of 2013. Being the winner of such an event memorializing such a fantastic talent is a badge that Moles is quite proud to carry.
“Jason is somebody I looked up to when I was younger,” Moles explained. “I’m glad to see his legacy live on and to put my name in the books as a winner of his race.”
Zach Daum (Pocahontas, Ill.) scored his best Jason Leffler Memorial finish since winning the thing in 2013. His second place result equaled his best finish of the USAC National Midget season, and he has now finished on the podium in four of his last five series starts in his Bundy Built Motorsports/Whitz Racing Products – ZMax/Spike/Bundy Built-PME Honda.
“It is frustrating not to win,” Daum acknowledged. “But I think it says a lot to be consistent every night. I don’t really see too many other people who have been in the top-five or six in the last 10 or 12 nights, or whatever we’ve been. We’ve been really, really consistent and really, really good. I felt like we had a really good car there and, if he slid up, I was going to try to fill the hole. If he didn’t slide up, I wasn’t going to run over him.”
Even though the night wasn't punctuated by a victory, Penngrove, Calif. racer Buddy Kofoid’s third place result came in another championship-level drive. The point leader's performance was his 16th podium finish in 23 series starts this year, helping him extend his series lead to 198 points in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota, all that despite taking the high road for a good portion of his run.
“The top was literally twice as far around,” Kofoid estimated. “I was able to make it work before it got too dirty, which made it almost impossible to run. I feel like I had to try it with the position I was in, but I felt like I was good enough to where I wouldn’t really lose a position or, if I did, I felt like I could get it back. I felt like I was gaining on those front couple guys around the halfway point. Overall, it was a good point run and good to be on the podium, of course. It’s cool to race in Jason’s honor and to remember how great of a driver he really was.”