Hofmann Ready for Return to Gatornationals

HOFMANN READY FOR STRONG RETURN TO GATORNATIONALS GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Al Hofmann has mixed emotions about returning to Gainesville Raceway, where, in a rare moment, he felt the thrill of victory and agony of defeat all bundled up in ...

HOFMANN READY FOR STRONG RETURN TO GATORNATIONALS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Al Hofmann has mixed emotions about returning to Gainesville Raceway, where, in a rare moment, he felt the thrill of victory and agony of defeat all bundled up in one.

Hofmann earned a bittersweet victory there one year ago as his Pontiac Firebird slammed into the guardrail at the end of the quarter-mile, just after outrunning final round opponent Mark Oswald. Hofmann suffered arm and hand injuries in the incident, relegating the Umatilla, Fla. veteran racer to the sideline for several races to follow. And ultimately ending his chances for a top-10 finish in the NHRA Winston point standings for 1997.

As Hofmann prepares for the 29th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 5-8, he'll be looking for a trip back to victory circle, without the smashing ending. He can do without that. The $1,800,000 race is the third of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Hofmann, who has earned top qualifying positions at both the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals, Pomona, Calif. and recent ATSCO Nationals, Chandler, Ariz., would like to extend his hot season-opening streak to the historic quarter-mile facility in Florida. His start to the 1998 season has been so good that his '97 Gatornationals crash is a very distant memory. His focus is totally on the present.

"Without a doubt, Gainesville is one of the better tracks," Hofmann said. "Conditions are usually pretty good there. We'll be going there with a totally different combination than the one we used last year to win the race. Our objective is to go in there, win the race and hopefully get the record back for Pontiac and the rest of our sponsors."

Speaking of sponsors, Hofmann is planning to introduce a new major sponsor for his race team during the weekend at Gainesville.

"We're going to have one of the best companies in the business behind us and it's going to mean a lot for this team," Hofmann said. "We've got a fast race car because everybody on this team has worked hard this season and done a super job."

Hofmann feels a strong sense of a home-field-advantage when he races at Gainesville, and he says the extra cheers from the fans will give him the momentum he needs to get his first win of the season and improve upon his fourth place position in the Winston point standings.

"I'm excited about the whole year," Hofmann said. "In the past few years we've had the performance to go out and beat anybody. The key is to race every weekend and keep adding to the points. We didn't do that last year for obvious reasons. I think we're only beginning to tap into the potential of this race car. Now that we're going to some of the faster tracks, I think some of these teams are going to have a hard time running with us."

* Gainesville House Rock: John Force is set to debut his Elvis Presley-themed Castrol GTX Ford Mustang at the 29th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals. He's hoping with the 'King' on his hood, he can draw some much-needed inspiration to improve on an uncharacteristic start to the 1998 season.

Force lost in the second round at the season-opening Chief Auto Parts Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. and then lost in the first round at the recent ATSCO Nationals, Chandler, Ariz., relegating the seven-time NHRA Winston Funny Car champion to eighth in the Winston point standings, his worst start this decade.

MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION

* Schedule: Pro qualifying sessions will be held at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on March 6 and March 7. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. March 8. Federal-Mogul qualifying will begin at 8 a.m. on March 5. Gates open each day at 7 a.m.

* Tickets: Tickets are available for the Mac Tools Gatornationals. Call NHRA Ticketing at (800) 884-6472 for ticket information. Tickets can also be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets.

* On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of highlights and final-round competition from the Mac Tools Gatornationals at 5 p.m. (ET) March 8. TNN will televise one hour of first-round coverage during "NHRA Today" at noon (ET) March 8.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Al Hofmann , John Force