Hoffman wins at La Crosse, but Carlson wins title WEST SALEM, Wis. (Oct. 12, 1998) Eddie Hoffman took the lead on lap 46 and held off Brian Hoppe to win the RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring, Oktoberfest 125 Sunday afternoon at the La ...
Hoffman wins at La Crosse, but Carlson wins title
WEST SALEM, Wis. (Oct. 12, 1998) Eddie Hoffman took the lead on lap 46 and held off Brian Hoppe to win the RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring, Oktoberfest 125 Sunday afternoon at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway. But while Hoffman was streaking to his fourth win of the season, Steve Carlson finished third and came away with the series points championship. Hoffman sped under the finish line 1.72 seconds ahead of Hoppe. Carlson, Jim Weber and Ron Breese, Jr., rounded out the top-five. "This is the closest championship I've ever won and by far the hardest championship I've ever won," said a relieved Carlson during the post-race celebration. By finishing one position ahead of Carlson, Hoppe gained five points, but still came up two points short in what proved to be the closest point finish in the series' 24-year history. Hoffman earned $5,700 for the win and secured third place in the final standings. Breese, who entered the afternoon mathematically alive in the hunt for RE/MAX Challenge Series champion honors, wound up finishing fourth in the final tally. Rookies Ryan Hanson and Justin Diercks led the 28-car field down to the green flag. Hanson made a quick getaway to lead at lap one while Diercks, Travis Kvapil, Hoppe and Chad Wood gave chase. Hanson led the first 16 laps before giving way to the hard charging Diercks. Diercks led for just four laps, however, as Hoppe flexed his muscle, diving under Diercks and taking the top spot. Carlson, who began the race in the 11th position, didn't crack the top-10 until lap 19. Hoffman quickly made his way to the front, diving under Diercks and into second place on lap 31. His pursuit of Hoppe was aided by a lap-37 caution flag for a minor spin by Chris Weinkauf in Turn 1. Steve Holzhausen, however, made slight contact with Weinkauf's machine, damaging the front suspension on his Ford Thunderbird. Once back under the green flag, it took Hoffman just two laps to move past Hoppe and take the lead. Carlson methodically marched his way to the front. On the restart following the Weinkauf/Holzhausen incident, Carlson lined up eighth but quickly got by Kvapil. Five laps later he shot past a slowing Tim Sauter and entered the top five with a quick pass of Diercks. Carlson then moved past Breese on lap 58 and took the fourth position. With Hoppe running second, Carlson needed one more position to garner enough points to lock up the championship. Carlson then looked to the inside of Weber on lap 70 as the pair worked through Turns 1 and 2. Carlson was able to get a good run off the corner and take the third position away from Weber. At first glance, that pass appeared to be the one that would win the championship for Carlson. "We were keeping track of the laps and of Brian. I knew if I could stay within one spot of him, we'd win the championship," Carlson said. But on lap 83, Weber got back around Carlson for third, giving the point lead back to Hoppe. "There was a lot of money on the line and a championship, I knew I had to get back around Weber," Carlson said. The top-five of Hoffman, Hoppe, Weber, Carlson and Breese remained the same until 10 laps remained, when seemingly out of nowhere, Carlson shot back by Weber, regaining the third spot and the championship point lead. Hoffman hung on for the win with Carlson holding off Weber for third and in the process, securing the championship. "This is bittersweet," said a somewhat dejected Hoffman from Victory Lane. "We finished third in the points and that's better than finishing fourth, but this whole thing is about winning championships." Diercks, who is just 18, faded to finish 20th in the Oktoberfest 125 but walked away with the REB-CO Racing Products Rookie of the Year honors. Carlson will collect his year-end point fund check and championship ring and trophy Oct. 31 when the RE/MAX Challenge Series drivers attend the season ending banquet at the Crown Plaza in Madison, Wis.
Source: NASCAR Online