Schererville | The name Hoffman has been in the victory limelight for many years at Illiana Motor Speedway and the name should continue to be in the headlines as the local raceway kicks of its 66th season today.
Second generation driver Eddie Hoffman of Wheaton, Ill., captured track championship honors in the Schepel Buick GMC Super Late Model division last season and should be among the frontrunners again this year, although he’ll be running a limited schedule. Winning 10 feature races at the half-mile paved speedway in 2012, Hoffman garnered his first Illiana championship of his career, which has been filled with other championships and race victories with an Illiana title eluding him until last year.
Turn back the clock to 1971 and Hoffman’s Dad, Ed, won the first of his seven Late Model stock car driving championships at Illiana. During the 1970s and into the mid-1980s, the elder Hoffman was a big winner at Illiana, always considered among the drivers to beat year after year.
“I grew up at the track and worked on my Dad’s cars,” Eddie Hoffman said. “I had the bug to drive when I was 17 or 18 years old. We were busy racing at Illiana and at Grundy (County Speedway in Morris, Ill.) with Dad’s car and it didn’t seem to be in the cards. I finally started Enduro racing at the ripe old age of 25 and had to take matters into my own hands.”
Hoffman enjoyed a successful career in Enduro competition, which would feature 100 or more cars racing each other on various Midwest short tracks for either 200 or 250 laps with a time limit of two hours or so, whichever came first.
“I was making money and having fun when we were racing Enduro cars,” Hoffman said. “That type of racing definitely helped my driving as far as racing in traffic and developing (racing) instincts, even though the pace was a little slower.”
Street Stock racing and Sportsman stock car action saw Hoffman enjoy more success, winning three consecutive Mid American Stock Car Series (Sportsman) driving titles in 1993 through 1995. 1996 saw Hoffman move in Super Late Model racing.
“I had a lot of experience working on cars and watching races,” Hoffman said. “My career followed a natural progression and the Enduro cars were probably the right thing to get into (at the start). I got hooked up with the right people during various times of my career and that helped.”
Hoffman and his current car owner, Illinois businessman Tom Kmak, have had a lot of success together with Hoffman’s driving and winning establishing Kmak’s TK Racing, Lisa Thomas Salon-sponsored, race team as one of the best in Midwest stock car racing circles.
“I think I’ve been driving for Tom for 14 years now,” Hoffman said. “It has been a lot longer than anyone would have guessed and a lot longer than most normal driver and car owner relationships go. It’s been a good and long. It just seems to work.”
Racing in one traveling stock car series or another, Hoffman and Kmak had not had an opportunity to put in a full season of racing at Illiana until last year.
“I have always been a (racing) series points chaser and Tom has been that way too,” Hoffman said. “Last year, I got to the point that I didn’t want to chase points and that opened up the chance to race at Illiana every week. I think we only missed one race."
Among the all-time winningest drivers at the speedway with 46 career feature victories, Hoffman, who finished second in the Illiana standings in 2011, doesn’t expect to make every race at Illiana this season.
“The team plans on competing in a few specials," Hoffman said."We’re not going to chase any series points, but the team already has a number of big (out of town) races circled on the calendar to attend, so I am probably going to miss some Illiana races.”
Hoffman is slated to be among the entries for this Saturday’s opening night of competition and has to be considered a heavy favorite any time he is on hand for a racing event at Illiana.