Remembering Doug Hoffman – Bridgeport Style
Doug Hoffman was a racer.
Former car owners, fellow competitors as well as track personnel will all tell you the same thing. When he was at the race track, Doug Hoffman was focused on racing and racing to win. He went out on the track and raced. He came back into the pits and watched the track. He was always thinking about the next laps that he would turn. He wasn’t there to socialize. He was there to race.
And there is no questioning his success.
Four hundred and eighty-two times, Hoffman raced to the checkered flag first. 92 of those wins came on the 5/8th mile track at the Bridgeport Speedway but Hoffman’s winning efforts stretched far and wide. Hoffman won on thirty-eight different tracks during his career, racing throughout the Northeast, North Carolina, Florida and Texas and into Canada as well.
In addition to multiple track and series titles, Hoffman picked up the big win at the New York State Fairgrounds in 1996, winning the 25th Anniversary event in his 13th start. It was a race to remember as Hoffman started 42nd on the field. After multiple mechanical issues during qualifying, Hoffman was forced to use his guaranteed starting spot but that just made the win all the sweeter when the checkered flag waved.
After years of promoting the Mahoning Valley Speedway in Lehighton, PA, it was Hoffman who rose to the occasion when Jay James stepped away from the Bridgeport Speedway at the end of the 2012 season.
Bridgeport Speedway owner, Brian Ramey, met with Hoffman to determine the future of the Bridgeport Speedway. “I didn’t know Doug well,” Ramey related. “But he did drive for Jay (James) at one time, so I had seen him at work. And Jay does have winner’s checks hanging up in his shop that proved his ability.” Ramey continued, “Doug approached us to discuss the possibility of him taking the reins for the 2012 season. We had several people pursuing the opportunity but none of them had the insight that Doug had.” As discussions continued, Hoffman’s excitement grew. “There was no doubt that he (Hoffman) was the best fit the family since his heart was in Big Blocks and that is what Bridgeport was designed and built for.”
Hoffman came to Bridgeport armed with both his experience as a driver and as a promoter. He knew what the drivers wanted. And he knew how to promote races. The Big Block Modifieds returned to Bridgeport Speedway after a year’s absence. Hoffman introduced the Poker Series to the Bridgeport Speedway – a series that had proven successful during his tenure at Mahoning. He not only continued to bring the top five feature finishers behind the grandstands – a practice that he never supported as a driver – but he also would bring the entire starting line-up behind the grandstands on special occasions. He brought the racers to the fans and it was a success.
Dave Adams remembers Hoffman as both a competitor as well as a promoter. “When I worked for Jay at Bridgeport, Doug fought me tooth and nail,” Adams remembers. “He didn’t want to come behind the grandstand after the feature event.” Adams returned to Bridgeport as a competitor during the 2012 season. Now Doug Hoffman, the promoter, had a very different perspective. “He came over to me in the pits one night,” Adams remembers. “He told me that he wanted to talk to me.” Hofffman apologized for his lack of cooperation as a driver. “He told me that I was right and he was wrong and he knew that now,” Adams added.
Danny Serrano saw Hoffman in a different light. Serrano was a Doug Hoffman fan for many years, prior to working at a race track. “He (Hoffman) was my favorite driver growing up but we formed a different relationship once he took over at Bridgeport,” Serrano explains. “We’d talk every Monday about how our Saturdays went at each of our tracks. (Serrano worked at the New Egypt Speedway during the 2012 season.) “It was really cool. He would give me advice and then he would also ask me for some advice. “
Since the passing of Doug Hoffman, it has been Dave Adams, Danny Serrano and Doug’s brother, Keith Hoffman who have joined forces with Ramey in running the Bridgeport Speedway.
Unlike his brother, Keith Hoffman did not come to Bridgeport with prior experience in track management. But Keith knows racing from a driver’s perspective, as did Doug, and he had business experience with Hoffmans Speed Supplies. “I knew Doug had turned Bridgeport around,” Keith explained. “And my business revolved around the race track. I wanted to be sure that the track was in the right hands.”
And very much like his brother, Keith Hoffman as had to learn to groom the speedway surface. When Doug was unhappy with the results, he took over the track maintenance himself. Now that job belongs to Keith. “I didn’t know anything about preparing a race track,” Keith relates. “But I’m learning. I know what needs to be done to make a track for great racing and I’m proud when the guys talk about how racy the track is and we have a good show.”
As the start of the 2016 season quickly approaches, the Bridgeport Speedway prepares to honor Doug Hoffman with their season opener – the 60 Over Doug Hoffman Memorial – scheduled for Saturday, March 26th.
This year’s event will mark the fourth running of the 60 Over Special. No one has been able to repeat in this prestigious event. Bobby Varin was the winner in a wild finish in the inaugural event. 2013 Bridgeport Champion, Ryan Watt picked up the win in 2014 while Ryan Godown put the Hewlett No. 901 in Victory Lane for last year’s event.
The Bridgeport Speedway will be open for practice this Saturday, March 19th. Both the 5/8th mile and Spirit Auto Center 1/4 mile track will be open to competitors to prepare for the start of the season. A second practice session will be held for the 5/8 mile track on the night preceeding the 60 Over Special. The first hand of the Poker Series will be dealt for the 60 Over Special with the Big Block Modifieds, Crate/Sportsman and Outlaw Stocks taking part in the 811 Dig Safely sponsored events.
Another round of practice is scheduled for Saturday, April 2nd. On Sunday, April 10th, the United Racing Club Sprint cars will join the Big Block Modifieds, Crate/Sportsman, Outlaw Stocks and Rookies. The South Jersey Shootout will follow one week later on Sunday, April 17th.
On Saturday, March 26th, the Bridgeport Speedway will honor Doug Hoffman. it is an event that would make the former track champion and promoter proud!
Written By: Deb Smith