Column By: MATT SKIPPER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – BARBERVILLE, FL – Nick Hoffman will wear two hats at Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals this year. One as a World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model driver, and the other as Kenny Wallace’s car owner.
Before Hoffman continues his sophomore season with the World of Outlaws at Volusia Speedway Park, he’ll unload his own Elite Chassis for Wallace to chase gators with the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds.
“I’m super excited,” Hoffman said. “He’s been running my Elite Chassis in the last couple of years, but this is the first time he’s going to be driving one of my personal cars. It’ll be exactly like my own program, all my equipment, crew guys, and such. The only difference is that I’m not in the driver’s seat. It’ll be super fun.
“I said last year that Kenny not being here brought down the morale. He’s so fun to be around and brings everybody up and is always in a good mood. I try to surround myself with positive people, and he is the most uplifting guy you’ll ever be around. I look forward to it, I know we’ll have fun, and we have a good shot at getting a couple of gators in February.”
Wallace missed the 2023 Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals to go on vacation with his family in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. While away, Hoffman called to see if he would race one of his cars.
“Last year, I went to Cabo so that I didn’t race at Volusia,” Wallace said. “Originally, I had said that I would race for two more years and call it a career. I got a lot of advice from legends like Don Prudhomme and Walker Evans saying, ‘No, don’t you dare!’ Kenny Schrader even said ‘Herman, no. You have to keep a race car in your shop.’ Then, everybody was worried about me and saying that I’d die.
“While I was in Cabo (in 2023), my phone rang, and it was Nick Hoffman and Kelly Kovsky (with Allgaier Performance Parts). They said, ‘Herman, it is boring at Volusia without you here. We miss you here.’ That almost made me cry. I explained my situation, and Hoffman said, ‘We’ll field you a car.’ The timing of this couldn’t be more perfect to race at Volusia again. I’m right where I wanna be.”
Hoffman made Volusia one of his most successful tracks in the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, winning seven consecutive Big Gator championships from 2016 to 2022. He recently scored his second tractor trophy with the UMP Modified division at the 10th anniversary Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial in November – bringing him to 22 wins at Volusia.
However, he’s still looking for his first Volusia win in a Late Model. The reigning World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year winner kicked off his 2024 campaign with finishes of 11th and 10th in the two opening races during Sunshine Nationals. With that, Hoffman now sits fifth in the Series standings – 28 points back from leader Brandon Sheppard.
Hoffman said he believes his previous success at Volusia will help him know what he needs from his Tye Twarog Racing #9 machine at “The World’s Fastest Half Mile.”
“It really does (help),” Hoffman said. “A little bit was the racetrack because of what we dealt with at the Reutimann Memorial. The dirt is a little bit different here than what we’ve seen in years past. It’s trending more towards the sandy side and that track time helps to give you an idea of what the track is going to do throughout the night. Coming from that win, I’ve got a lot of momentum returning to Volusia. It’s one of my most successful racetracks, but everything compiles on itself, and we’ll just keep working at it to win a gator.”
Another benefit for Hoffman this year, as he chases the Series title, is he has a full season of running a Longhorn Chassis under his belt. Last year’s Sunshine Nationals was his first experience with the chassis.
“Last year, (Sunshine Nationals) was my first time running a Longhorn Chassis,” Hoffman said. “Now, a year later, we are way more prepared. I’m more mentally prepared and kind of know what to expect and everything. I got a notebook now and that’s the biggest thing to do is beating those guys with experience. Whether it’s laps or setup experience with what these racetracks will do. I’m very confident with what I got now, and I hope that will lead to success in 2024.”
But before his driving duties, Hoffman is eager to get Wallace, the former NASCAR star, back to Volusia.
“The Herminator” has a special connection to Volusia Speedway Park, having won his first of nine races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track in 1991 and scored four career DIRTcar Nationals Feature wins.
“I always knew Volusia was special,” Wallace said. “Volusia means more to me than it does to anyone else. I found out how much it meant to me last year at the Bike Week race with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars. When myself, Rusty (Wallace), and my nephew Stephen (Wallace) rode our bikes into the track with Southern Country Customs, we were in Victory Lane before the races began, they started interviewing me and I got super emotional. At that moment, I realized how much I missed Volusia. It’s where I won my first Xfinity Series race in 1991, then returning to win an Eagle trophy in 2007, and three Gators in 2012. They are not normal Feature race wins, either.”
Though he has not raced at Volusia in two years, he hasn’t been away from Modified racing. In 2023, he won the Missouri/Illinois DIRTcar Regional Championship in his familiar #36 JEGS UMP Modified.
“The track is a lot faster now than ever,” Wallace said. “I’m ready, I know what I am in for. It’s turned into a Speedy Gonzales racetrack with the new clay surface. I don’t feel like my one year off though. I feel good, I raced all through last year at home and won the regional championship in Missouri and Illinois. I’m 60. I know time is going to get me, but I refuse to let myself slow up. I expect to win, I really do. Volusia has the best of the best there next week. It’s a different animal, but I’m ready.”
See Hoffman and Wallace race for Gator trophies at the 53rd Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals, Feb. 5-17. The 12-day event features the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars and DIRTcar UMP Modifieds during week one, Feb. 5-10. Then, World of Outlaws CASE Late Models, Super DIRTcar Series, and USAC Non-Wing Sprint Cars during week two, Feb. 12-17.