TULSA, Okla. — Multi-time DIRTcar Nationals and Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champion Nick Hoffman isn’t among the first batch of drivers who come to mind when brainstorming a list of candidates for a Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals midget ride.
However, Hoffman will have the chance to test his skills at the Super Bowl of Midget Racing when the 35th edition of the event takes to the quarter-mile Tulsa Expo Raceway Jan. 11-16.
Hoffman, a Midwest transplant who now calls Mooresville, N.C., home, will wheel a third entry for RAMS Racing at the Chili Bowl next month as he makes his debut in the prestigious event.
Known for piloting various dirt cars over the past couple of years, as well as building dirt modifieds under the Elite Chassis banner, Hoffman’s reputation put him on team owner Rick Young’s short list for potential drivers.
“Really this deal came together just from walking around the pit area the past couple of years out at Chili Bowl,” Hoffman explained. “I got to meet Jeff Taylor and Rick Young through all that and they had actually followed me on Facebook and Instagram and that type of thing through the years, which was honestly surprising to me. To have somebody of that caliber, who owns quite a few midgets and has done the stuff that they’ve done, paying attention to what I’ve been doing was really cool and spoke a lot to me.
“I got to talking to them last year or two years ago about doing something, and then last year they were talking about wanting to pull out a backup car and throw me in it the week of (the race), but we planned it all out to do it right this year,” Hoffman continued. “Jeff called me in the middle of the summer and was like, ‘Hey, you know, would you be interested?’ And I told him, ‘Hell, yeah, I would want to do it.’ It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, I think, to go race a really well-prepared midget at the most prestigious race in the world for those types of cars.
“It’s a really neat deal and I’m just excited to try and make the most of it next month in Tulsa.”
Hoffman’s Chili Bowl debut won’t mark his first race in a midget.
He made a POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League appearance last season at Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Ill., and finished an impressive sixth in the No. 21ks for car owner Steve Reynolds and crew chief Flea Ruzic.
“I ran one POWRi race last year at Little Belleville and the track was pretty treacherous and pretty rough, but it was a big learning experience,” Hoffman recalled. “But I’ve run quite a few laps in a midget (testing) here at Millbridge (Speedway) and run a couple of different midgets, so it’ll be interesting. Obviously, they’re kind of throwing me to the wolves, with only getting two or three laps (of practice) before race night, but that’s what I’m used to, is adapting and trying and make the best of any situation.
“Obviously, the race car is going to be really good, so it’s going to be all up to me to make it go.”
As far as his goals for Chili Bowl week, Hoffman has a target in mind, particularly knowing the caliber of team he’ll be with. RAMS Racing won a preliminary-night feature with driver Justin Grant in 2019.
“If you can just make the night portion on Saturday (on MAVTV), and you can put yourself in the C main, B main or the A main … as long as you make it to the nighttime on Saturday, you’ve done something there,” Hoffman said. “They’ve got really high expectations, and I do too for myself, but a lot of the Chili Bowl deal is all about luck. You see a lot of great race car drivers that go into that place, and a lot of great midget racers who struggle or have one heat race that kind of ruins their whole weekend.
“So a lot of it is luck and then just putting yourself in the right positions. I feel like I’ve done that quite a bit this year and been on the upside of the luck more often than not,” Hoffman continued. “We’ll see what we’ve got come January and see if we can’t give the heavy hitters a run for their money.”