The 1997 season got off to a flying start for Atomic Al Hofman. Running as an unsponsored independent he was the runner up at the Winternationals and at the third race of the season he found himself in the finals against Mark Oswald and the IN-N-Out Burger car. Never one to spare the rod or take it easy, Hoffman came into the final round with a killer tune up in the car and high hopes to win a race and put himself right in the thick of the championship hunt. While he accomplished the short term goal of wining the race, the long term goal of competing for a championship literally went up in an inferno at the finish line.
As you will see, Mark Oswald smoked the tires early in the run but Hoffman was on a killer pass. Watch the front end of the car pull itself way up in the air just past the 60′ block. Screaming down the track, this looked like a triumph for Hofman until the engine kicked the rods out and started pumping its oil on the red hot exhaust headers. The fire was instantaneous and vicious. Completely bathed in fire Hoffman worked valiantly to keep the machine between the walls but he hammered the steel guardrail hard.
You’ll see Steve Evans reporting from the top end AS THEY ARE WORKING ON HOFFMAN! He obviously made it through this but the car was destroyed and the team didn’t really get their footing again until towards the end of the 1997 season when they scored a win in Dallas. Further proof that they would have been right there with the big boys had the not suffered the fire.