HOFMANN CONFIDENT OF VICTORY HEADING INTO MEMPHIS MEMPHIS, Tenn. (September 30, 1998) -- It's been an up and down season for Pontiac Firebird Funny Car driver Al Hofmann. After seizing the No. 1 qualifying spot at the first two races of the...
HOFMANN CONFIDENT OF VICTORY HEADING INTO MEMPHIS
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (September 30, 1998) -- It's been an up and down season for Pontiac Firebird Funny Car driver Al Hofmann. After seizing the No. 1 qualifying spot at the first two races of the year at Pomona and Phoenix, and posting a blazing quarter mile run of 4.862 seconds at the Winternationals, a once promising season has turned into an ongoing search for a consistent setup that will put the GM Performance Parts Firebird back into the winner's circle.
"We've struggled with the clutch disks and trying to find the right balance with the race car," explained Hofmann. "We thought we had it figured out because the GM Performance Parts Firebird started to run much better, but we've began to struggle again here lately. Hopefully we can get back to where we were running when we turned those big numbers at the beginning of the year."
Hofmann began his racing career at local tracks in Connecticut and New York in the late 1960s, and continued match racing until 1978 when he bought his first Nitro Funny Car. He began competing professionally in the NHRA in 1988 and jumped into the Winston top-10 for the first time in 1991.
During his 10-year NHRA career, Hofmann has won 14 races and competed in 29 final rounds. His best season was in 1995 when he won five races and finished second in the Winston standings. Last season he finished in 13th place, despite the fact that he missed four races due to a horrific crash following his win at the Gatornationals. An eight month comeback culminated with his win at the Revell Nationals last October in Dallas.
Currently 10th in the Winston standings after 17 races, Hofmann's best stretch of the year was without question the mid-summer Western swing, where the 50-year-old Floridian marched to the semi-final round at all three events. His performance through the first half of the year was good enough to land him in the No. 8 qualifying spot for the Big Bud Shootout at Indianapolis.
"Our Firebird is capable of running in the 4.80s for the very reason that we're a high horsepower car," explained Hofmann. "When you look at the times some of the teams were posting during the middle of the season, no one has really come close to the numbers that we were running at the beginning of the year. That's because the tracks we run on at mid-season, and the hot weather conditions aren't conducive to those kind of times.
"Now we're getting to the time of year when those big numbers will come back. Dallas, Houston, and if the weather's cool in Memphis like it can be this time of year, it can be a good race track as well."
At last year's Pennzoil Nationals, Hofmann's Firebird charged to the No. 6 qualifying spot, and a semi-final finish that was a prelude to his comeback win just two weeks later in Dallas. He will try to duplicate that performance as he heads into the final four events of the 1998 race season.
"Our entire focus now turns to winning a race," said Hofmann. "We haven't gone winless for an entire season since 1991, and we certainly don't want to end that streak now. As far as where we will end up in the standings at the end of the year, I would be happy for a top-10 finish, especially after looking at how we've performed at certain points of the year."
The 11th Annual Pennzoil Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park in Millington, Tenn., on October 8-11, is the 19th race on the 22 event NHRA Winston championship tour. Same day coverage of final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, October 11 beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern. Hofmann won this race in 1992 and was runner-up in 1994.
"The competition level in Funny Car just keeps getting tougher and tougher," said Hofmann. "No longer can one guy just walk away with the championship. Any one of the 16 cars that (continued) Al Hofmann makes the field for Sunday's eliminations is capable of winning.
"NHRA has a great sport out here. It's grown tremendously and I want to continue to be a part of it, but the championships are just going to keep getting harder to win. You're going to have to earn them, and if you do win, you will have deserved every bit of it. I'm pretty confident though that if our GM Performance Parts Firebird goes to the finish line, there aren't too many people who can run with it."