Nick Hoffman looking to use crown jewels to further build Late Model career

Nick Hoffman

Nick Hoffman came into the 2023 season looking to cement his status as a Late Model driver. The top Dirt Modified ace of the past decade has gone a long way toward doing exactly that by picking up his first World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series victory at Stateline Speedway in Busti, NY on May 23rd. That victory had been preceded by three days by another $10,000 triumph in the Jim Dunn Memorial at Muskingum County(OH) Speedway.

The current resident of Mooresville, NC has scored multiple wins at Fairbury(IL) Speedway in a Modified race car. However, the 31-year-old originally from Belleville, Illinois will be seeking glory in a Late Model this weekend at the highly popular facility located in his native state. The driver of the Tye Twarog Racing No. 9 Longhorn Chassis will enter the Prairie Dirt Classic sitting fourth in the current series standings trailing leader Bobby Pierce by only 84 points.

While the four-time UMP Modified Summer Nationals champion has turned numerous laps at Fairbury, he points out that there is still much work for him and his crew to do in order to have a shot at the $50,000 paycheck that will be handed to the PDC feature winner on Saturday night.

Just how much of his experience from Modified racing can he take to the Late Model in terms of driving style and preparation of the car?

“It’s two different animals as far as setup wise,” Hoffman stated in a media availability set up by the World of Outlaws. “The biggest thing is having laps on the race track and knowing the characteristics of the race track. At a place like Fairbury, I’ve raced there so many times that I kind of know in qualifying we’re typically around the top then normally at heat race time we’re around the bottom then at feature time it kind of spreads out.”

The track known as FALS calls for drivers to be on top of their games every lap.

“The bottom at Fairbury is very technical and you’ve got make sure you hit the grip because if you miss it just a little bit it’s a lot of speed difference when we’re running right at the infield tires to about a half groove out,” Hoffman explained. “That’s the biggest thing, knowing the characteristics of the track and how to make speed.”

By the time Late Model competitors roll through the gates at Fairbury there will have been a two week break in the schedule since the last WoO Late Models contest at Kentucky’s Ponderosa Speedway.

As part of the No. 9 team’s preparation for the PDC and other upcoming crown jewel races, they decided test while racing. And the results were quite good as Hoffman placed second in an unsanctioned event at Moler Raceway Park in Williamsburg, Ohio on July 21st then won a Valvoline Iron-Man Late Model Series feature at Atomic Speedway in Alma, Ohio the following day.

“For me, we’re going racing, but I’ll call it testing,” Hoffman declared in the interview conducted last week. “We’re going to use it as a test session and that’s it. I didn’t feel like I was very good at Ponderosa, I feel like my car wasn’t bad but I probably wasn’t aggressive enough so a lot of that comes back on me. I didn’t feel like I was so great so we’re going to test and race these next two days here.”

Hoffman believes that Late Model teams, unlike when he was a full-time Modified driver, are not afforded the luxury of taking multiple weeks off which is why he wanted to be on a track this past weekend rather than work in his shop.

“The Modified is way easier to maintain, it’s more laid back,” he described. “The technology, everything about it(Late Model racing) evolves very quick, you have to keep racing. You can’t take weeks and weeks off and show back up and expect to run well, which I could kind of do in the Modified. There’s just way more that goes into Late Model racing.”

The driver whose current residence is not far from the headquarters of Longhorn Chassis says that his setup is not exactly like that of other drivers who employ that brand of car such as Brandon Sheppard so he needed to test in order to confirm that everything is as it should be.

“That’s the biggest thing, making sure, what I do on my car is a little bit off compared to what Sheppy and some of those guys are running so I’m kind of out on an island by myself,” he explained. “I’ve just got to keep tuning on it, I feel like we’re close but still not great. We’re not good enough to win every night.”

Nick Hoffman in his Tye Twarog-owned Longhorn Chassis

Besides having the car in top shape, Hoffman says that the driver must have the attitude that he can get the job done in the big races. To a certain degree, a little arrogance may even be necessary.

“It’s about having momentum and confidence,” he said. “When you roll out there, you’ve got know, and I know it sounds cocky, but you’re the best race car driver. That’s what has to go through your head. If you have any doubts about yourself, you’re kind of screwed to begin with. For me, there was a lot of confidence there knowing that I could beat these guys. We’ve been running top-5 maybe more than most.”

His position in the standings is largely due to the fact that he has amassed 10 top-five and 16 top-ten finishes in the 21 WoO Late Models races held so far in 2023.

Hoffman drove a few Late Model races in the legendary No. 0 car for Scott Bloomquist back in 2021 when the Hall of Famer was sidelined due to injury. As a matter of fact, his first race in that car was at Fairbury. Having worked with that legendary racer helped to give him an appreciation for the magnitude of crown jewel events such as the upcoming Prairie Dirt Classic as well as the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway and the North-South 100 at Florence Speedway.

So what would it mean to win any of those races?

“The biggest thing is as a driver it changes your whole outlook on your career,” Hoffman pointed out. “It’s like you won that crown jewel and there’s only handful of drivers who have been able to do that. Lately, it seems like it’s the same guys winning the crown jewels -Jonathan Davenport, Brandon Sheppard, Brandon Overton- those type of guys. That’s the biggest thing, I think. Obviously, confidence comes with that. To me, it puts you on another pedestal as a race car driver.”

Fairbury in particular offers a status upgrade for the driver who is able to pull into victory lane then take that drive to the bank to deposit the winner’s share of the purse.

“You can really make a name for yourself there because there’s so many people who watch that race and so many who attend it. It’s a different type of crowd than anywhere else we go. The only thing that I could say will rival it are the World 100 or the Dream.”

The World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series will sanction a $5,000-to-win preliminary race at Fairbury Speedway on July 28th and the Prairie Dirt Classic on July 29th.

Please consider also reading:

Turn 2 Blog: Is Huset’s suited for Late Models? & What classes would you run at your track?

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