Hoffman Claims Gator Championship
BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Nick Hoffman made all the right moves on Monday night earning his first Gator Championship race win as part of the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment.
“This is over the top; this is number one by far,”Hoffman said. “I’ve won a lot of $1,000-to-win shows, but to win against this kind of competition level, $5,000 and that nice trophy…nothing compares.”
Hoffman, who was born in the Midwest and transplanted himself into the middle of NASCAR country in Mooresville, N.C., passed the best in the business en route to victory.
“I kind of got the luck of the draw,” he said. “I got to start seventh. Most people wouldn’t think that was lucky, but I knew if I was going to win this thing I had to be on the bottom. Everybody tried the top at the right time and they just kept falling back. I just stayed on the bottom, never tried the top, and it worked out for me.”
Hoffman broke into the top three on lap 14 for the first time in a duel with Paul Miles and Kenny Wallace, and secured it for good three laps later.
“The bottom had just enough traction where you could roll right through the bottom, but some guys were able to keep their momentum through the middle and some guys were banging the cushion,” Hoffman said. “I just stayed with the bottom because that’s where I knew I needed to be.”
Hoffman disposed of Austin Dillon on lap 18 and would go on to inherit the lead after race-long leader Chad Kinder spun in turn one.
“Everybody raced me clean,” Hoffman said. “Austin was all over me. It’s so tough to race against all this competition. Kinder was leading it and he ended up spinning out. That was my lucky break.”
Hoffman led the final nine circuits to earn his richest DIRTcar UMP Modified triumph, claiming the newly created Gator Championship trophy — a three-foot bronze gator.
“I saw it at the beginning of the week,” he said. “I was like, ‘Man, I got to have that thing. That’s what I want.’ The money doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s going to go back in the racing program, but the trophy will stay with us forever.”
Dillon, the defending NASCAR Truck Series Champion finished second, his third such effort throughout Gator Championship competition. Kenny Schrader finished third after running second for a majority of the event. He was ambushed by Hoffman and Dillon just after the midpoint of the event.
Miles finished fourth after being part of a spectacular back-and-forth battle with previous night winner Kenny Wallace. Ty Dillon, the younger of the two Dillon brothers, rallied from a 10th-place redraw position to round out the top five.
Nick Hoffman, Austin Dillon, Kenny Schrader, Paul Miles, Ty Dillon, Tyler Nicely, Dave Hess, Jr., Kenny Wallace, Michael Long, Jason Beaulieu, Steve Arpin, Kyle Bronson, Brian Shaw, Chad Kinder, Jared Landers, Richie Michael, Mike Harrison, Bryce Jewell, David McWilliams, Jeff Matthews, Brandon Smith, Gary Cook, Jr., Todd Sherman, Joel Watson, Dave Baker, Devin Dixon, Travis Dickson, Tyler Carpenter, Jeff Leka, Devin Gilpin, Matt Cooper, Brian Barber.BREAKING NEWS: SPEED SPORT is back in print with a new monthly format! Subscribe for just $24.95. Special offer for former subscribers.