MEMPHIS, Tenn. (October 2, 2000) - It seems like good things happen to Al Hofmann when he crosses the Mississippi River and sets up camp at Memphis Motorsports Park. His last two visits to the AutoZone Nationals have produced a pair of ...
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (October 2, 2000) - It seems like good things happen to Al Hofmann when he crosses the Mississippi River and sets up camp at Memphis Motorsports Park. His last two visits to the AutoZone Nationals have produced a pair of milestones that have changed the course of this veteran Funny Car driver's career. Last year's event is memorable because it is where Jim Dunn made it official that Hofmann would be the driver of the Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird for the 2000 season. Although the announcement was greeted from those close to the sport with varying reactions, a year has now passed since Dunn and Hofmann joined forces and both are still in agreement on the merit of their decision. "I hate to sound like a broken record, but I've really enjoyed racing for Jim (Dunn) this year," Hofmann said. "John Dunn and the entire Mooneyes/Red Line Oil race team have worked their tails off this season to give me a good racecar and I think it's only matter of time before this Pontiac Firebird really starts to click. "We've had our share of ups and downs, but I like our chances when we get to Memphis. Jim's experience over the years and in the kind of conditions we'll face there may give us a slight advantage. You can't keep Jim down very long before things start to go his way. He's just too good of a competitor and a winner in every respect." After 18 events, Hofmann is 12th in the Funny Car standings. A strong performance at the Sears Craftsman Nationals in St. Louis, where he advanced to the semifinals, vaulted Hofmann into the Winston top 10. He spent most of the summer in that spot, but stumbled at the U.S. Nationals and picked up his only DNQ of the season. A first-round loss at Reading dropped the Umatilla, Fla. resident down to his current position. "At Indy, we just got off on the wrong foot all together," explained team owner and crew chief Jim Dunn. "We fought the clutch all weekend and were running new stuff that we hadn't used before. So yeah, it was a disappointment. But after something like that you have to get your focus back, pack it in and get ready for the next race whether it's Indy, or Topeka, or Memphis or wherever it may be. If you can't take getting beat sometimes then you might as well get out of the sport because getting beat is a part of drag racing. The key is to learn from your mistakes and I think we've been able to do that." During an illustrious NHRA Funny Car career, Hofmann has won 15 national events and competed in 31 final rounds. From 1992-96, Hofmann finished no worse than fourth in the points standings. His best season was in 1995 when he won five events and finished second in the Winston standings. In 1997, Hofmann finished in 13th place despite the fact that he missed four races due to a horrific crash following a win at the Gatornationals. The pinnacle of his comeback that year came in October when Hofmann won the Revell Nationals in Dallas. In 1998, Hofmann finished ninth in the standings for his seventh top-10 finish despite DNQs at Atlanta, Chicago and Indianapolis. Late that season, his nitro-powered Firebird took him to new personal bests in elapsed time and top speed with a run of 4.855 seconds at 317.46 mph at the Revell Nationals in Dallas. He also picked up career victory No. 15 at Memphis Motorsports Park by defeating Cruz Pedregon in a final-round matchup after battling his way past Del Worsham, John Force and Dean Skuza. The victory provided a catalyst for a runner-up finish a week later at Topeka, but it is also significant in that it is the last time Hofmann participated in a winner's circle celebration. Heading into this year's event, there's a high level of urgency on Hofmann's part to correct the two-year dry spell. "Jim and I, and this Mooneyes team have had a heck of a year together," Hofmann said. "Heading into Memphis I think we can make up a lot of lost ground. We're only a few rounds out of 10th, so to go some rounds and maybe get to the finals, that would go a long way for us. Between the two of us, Jim and myself, we've been out here a long time and have a pretty good book on the place. This is Jim's 50th anniversary and to be able to drive for him this year has been a tremendous honor. Right now, I'd like to win one in Memphis for him more than anything else." The 13th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil on October 5 - 8, at Memphis Motorsports Park in Memphis, Tenn., is the 20th race on the 23-event NHRA Winston championship tour. NHRA Heat can be seen on ESPN2 on Thursday, October 5, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern. Television coverage of qualifying highlights can be seen on Speedvision on Saturday, October 7, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations can be seen on Sunday, October 8, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.
Did you know? Seven current Team Pontiac drivers have won at Memphis Motorsports Park for a total of 13 victories: Tommy Johnson Jr. (1994 TF, 1999 FC), Brad Jeter (1999 PST), Al Hofmann (1992, 1998), Warren Johnson (1991-92, 1996, 1998), Jim Yates (1997), Mark Pawuk (1995), Cory McClenathan (1992, 1995).
Eight current Pontiac drivers have been runner-up at the Autozone Nationals: Richie Stevens (1999), Cruz Pedregon (1997-98), Brad Jeter (1998 PST), Mark Osborne (1997), Jim Yates (1996), Gary Densham (1995), Al Hofmann (1994), Warren Johnson (1989).
GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird driver Warren Johnson holds the Memphis Motorsports Pro Stock track record in elapsed time (6.881 seconds) and top speed (200.08 mph) set at the 1998 AutoZone Nationals. Cruz Pedregon set the Funny Car track record in elapsed- time (4.916 seconds) at the 1998 AutoZone Nationals.