Auto Racing: Earning it meant much for Eddie Hoffman
Tony Baranek email@example.com | (708) 633-5947 September 12, 2012 8:38PM
D.J. Weltmeyer (from left) and his parents, Toni and Dave, celebrate his late-model feature victory Saturday at Illiana Speedway. | Chris Goodaker~For Sun-Times Media
Illiana speedway Results
40-lap feature: 1. D.J. Weltmeyer, 2. Bobby Gash, 3. Paul Shafer Jr., 4. Mike White, 5. Scott Tomasik, 6. Anthony Danta, 7. Eddie Hoffman, 8. Jessie Saunders, 9. Larry Schuler, 10. John Nutley.
25-lap feature: 1. Andy Jones, 2. Paul Shafer Jr., 3. Alex Arelano, 4. Garrett Harris, 5. Paul Shafer Sr., 6. Chris King, 7. Tyler Rycenga, 8. Randy Harris, 9. Andrea Hans, 10. Jacob Melvin.
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:31PM
There is winning a championship, then there’s earning a championship.
At least that’s how Eddie Hoffman analyzed clinching his first career Illiana Speedway late-model title Saturday.
It didn’t necessarily come with fireworks. Hoffman’s No. 8 sputtered at the start of the regular-season ending 40-lap feature and he never was a factor. But Saturday was an anomaly in what has been a pretty spectacular 2012 campaign for the 48-year-old Wheaton native.
Hoffman’s victory Aug. 25 over Boris Jurkovic was his 10th of the season at the half-mile Schererville, Ind., oval. This definitely was not backing in to a title. And that’s what made Hoffman smile the most in the pits afterward.
“I mean, titles are good, but how did you win it?” he said. “We won it by winning a bunch of races and having a really fast car. Now we can focus on the next one.”
The next one, Saturday night, is the 51st annual Bettenhausen Classic. Hoffman has won four of them and is tied for the second-most victories with Dave Weltmeyer. Frank Gawlinski won it an astounding nine times between 1981 and ’97. Brett Sontag has won three of the past four.
Hoffman earned the 2012 Illiana championship over D.J. Weltmeyer. At 19 and in just his third full-time season of late-model racing, the son of area racing legend Dave Weltmeyer was a weekend regular at both Grundy and Illiana speedways, finishing second in the points at both tracks and, even more amazing, finishing all of the 40 feature races he competed in.
More than a few times this season, I’ve overheard onlookers comment, “He looks just like the old man out there.”
In Saturday’s 40-lap feature, Weltmeyer was in the right place at the right time when while battling for the lead with just five laps remaining, Jeff Cannon got into Blake Brown between Turns 1 and 2 and turned him around. Both had to go to the back for the restart. Weltmeyer had no problem holding off Bobby Gash to secure the victory, his second of the season.
“Whenever you’re in a situation like that you always want to be ready,” Weltmeyer said. “I’m glad we missed it (the spin). I feel bad for those guys, but I feel good for our team.
“We’ve worked so hard all day and all year, it was nice that it paid off. This has been an amazing season, definitely consistent. We didn’t tear too much stuff up, and we kind of minimized the amount of errors we had throughout the season. That gave us some real consistency at both tracks.”
The Cannon-Brown incident saw two very disappointed drivers when the race ended. Cannon went to Brown’s pit to apologize.
“I got a little anxious,” Cannon said. “The lap counter (on the scoreboard) wasn’t working and I was trying to watch the flagman. I knew it had to be close to the end of the race and I had to start putting some pressure on. I got in a little hot. I take full responsibility for it.”
Meanwhile Brown, the defending Illiana champion, kept his cool.
“We were racing hard and he didn’t get into me once until he got into the back of me,” Brown said. “I know it was an accident. But it’s just frustrating coming out here after not being here for two months, racing for the win and flat-out getting taken out like that.”
The Legends Division chase went down to the final race, with New Lenox native Alex Arelano using a third-place finish behind Andy Jones and Paul Shafer Jr. to pass Matt O’Leary in the standings to take his third division title. O’Leary came into the night one point ahead of Arelano, but had all sorts of problems in the main. He never was able to get to Arelano’s bumper and wound up spinning twice, the second time while battling for position with Paul Shafer Sr.
An excited Arelano, most definitely into the moment, put on quite a doughnut/smoke show on the front straightaway after the feature event.
“Oh, man, it was a rough night,” Arelano said. “I was thinking about it all week and just hoping for the best. I’ve got to thank my dad and Tracy Schuler for keeping the car running good. It wasn’t running that good in practice, but it came around for the feature.”
Rain that struck during the Hoss Outlaws feature also washed out the turbo stox and pure stocks mains. Both will be made up before Saturday’s Bettenhausen program. Bill Serviss leads Jacob McKown in the turbos by just seven points.