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They Called Him "Atomic"


Nitro Member
This is the interview I did with him that day back in 2003.

Al Hofmann has seemingly faded into the background of drag racing of late. Other then a few mentions on television, Al has all but disappeared. After careful thought, I took the time to think up a few questions that I think every Hofmann fan wants to ask, and here is what he had to say.

What was the biggest reason you left drag racing, and was it a single reason?

It was a lot of reasons. It came together in the last few years driving for someone else. The politics that got involved with it, the sponsors. It just wasn't drag racing anymore as far as I was concerned. You used to be able to build a car, go to the track, take it home make some changes and make it faster, you know work on it. It's not racing anymore. They've taken all that out of it. Anybody can buy anything that you got on that car. The innovation part of it has been worked over so bad. The NHRA has made it so you cant make any changes to make the car go faster without making it illegal. It just got out of hand as far as I was concerned. The innovation, the hands on part was what I liked about racing.

How do you feel about how you left Drag Racing a few years ago at Gainesville?

I probably should have done it a few years sooner. Workin' with Jim Dunn, I really enjoyed racing for him. Like I said before, if it wasn't for his son and his wife I would have probably stayed with Jim and kept racing. The whole thing got blown out of proportion, it really wasn't that big a deal. It was kinda comin' to a head a year before that, the writing was on the wall that this wasn't going to last very long. I was used to having a car that could win, that was capable of winning. That's what we were there for was to race and win. With Dunn, all he wanted to do was be there. If he qualified, fine, if he didn't, fine. I just didn't race that way.

Has anyone tried to talk you into coming back?

I've had a lot of people try and get me to come back, but I'm really not interested.

What about Force? Has he tried to get you to come back?

Initially right after the deal in Gainesville. We went back and fourth over the phone for a week or two. I just really didn't want to go back racing at that time though.

Now that you've had time to reflect on your career, are you satisfied with what you've accomplished in your sport and what is your biggest regret?

My biggest regret is not winning the world championship, we came close in '95. As far as overall accomplishments, we were the third winningest car in the 90's, which I think is not too bad for such a fairly low budgeted team.

What do you think drag racing will miss most now that you have retired?

Probably nothing! <laughing>

What will you miss the most?

Driving the car. To me that was everything, driving. Once I was in the car I could be in my own world. There's nobody in there with you, there's nobody around, its just you and the car. To me that's what drag racing is all about.

What was it like in your early days, driving China Syndrome?

It was tough, because of the money part of it. But I really enjoyed it a whole lot more then now, with the sponsorship and money. I think around '95 or '96 it began to go down hill.

Through your life, I'm sure you've had some special people that helped advance your career. Who do you think helped you the most to become the driver that you are today?

When I first bought the funnycar, I really didn't know too much about it. Sid Waterman helped me quite a bit. Another fellow, Anoton Addesso who used to run Alcohol funnycar helped a lot. When I first bought the car, I really had no idea how to even start the car. I never had a blown motor or anything like that. So I called Anton up, he came over and helped start the car. He went to the first couple of races and helped me get my license. Then we kinda went our own separate ways. I think its been twenty years since he raced last.

If you could relive one season in your career what would it be?

1995. We won five national events, the Big Bud Shootout, the Winston Invitational. I kicked Force's ass generally every time I ran him. We ended up second in points.

Would you change anything about the course of the last thirty years?

Probably not.

Do you seen any current NHRA drivers that continue to race with the attitude and intensity that you did?

Whit Bazemore. He's one of the few people out there that came up through his career with the same thing I had, pretty much nothing. The kid would eat a McDonald's hamburger to save money for the next race instead of spending five dollars for a decent meal. He's probably one of the most hardcore racers out there right now.

Do you see a similarity in the rivalry between Whit and Tony Pedregon and the one that you and Force had?

Well, first of all, Pedregon will never be Force, and Bazemore will never be me. But on the side of Whit Bazemore, he is probably the closest thing that you will ever get to the rivalry that John and I had, but its not going to work with Pedregon.

Recently we've seen Don Garlits and now Kenny Bernstein come out of retirement, both having feelings of not being content with life being a spectator rather then a player. Do you share any of these feelings with them?

None of them, none whatsoever. First of all, you will probably never see me in another dragster. These guys here stayed in the sport for the money. They had big sponsors and they didn't want to lose them. That's pretty much something that I don't have to worry about.

Do you ever see yourself driving another funnycar again?

Anything can happen but I doubt it.

What do you enjoy most about being retired?

Freedom. Nobody telling me what to do where to go who to talk to.

How do you want to be remembered?

Just somebody who enjoyed racing and gave it everything that I had.

June 30, 2003


Nitro Member
Other fun stuff I dug up-

What hobbies do you have? Restoring classic cars.

How did you get your start in racing? Took my 57 Chevy that I drove on the street, then started racing it.

What was your favorite race ever? 1995 Big Bud shootout, winning $100,000.

Who do you most admire? Myself.

Who is your lifelong hero? Myself.

What are you better then everyone at? Everything.

What's your favorite TV show? Sopranos.

Who is your favorite entertainer? John Force

What is your favorite food? Turkey with dressing, and M&M's for dessert.

What do you like on your pizza? Cheese.

Do you drink Coke or Pepsi? Pepsi.

What's your favorite cocktail? Canadian Club.

Who is your favorite actor/actress? Adam Sandler.

What does no one know about you? "He has a big heart" -girlfriend Susie

What do you hope you never have to do again? Crash a car as hard as I did in Gainesville.

What was the smartest thing you ever did? Start racing, then quit racing.

What was the best advice you ever got? Don't quit, get fired instead.

What is your purpose in life? Drag racing. I just love racing, its my whole life driving that car.

What makes you the happiest? Winning

What makes you the maddest? Watching John Force win.

What is your favorite thing to do? Win races.

Who do you get inspiration from, what motivates you to win? The smell of nitro I guess <laughing> I don't know. I get up in the morning and I wanna win a race, it doesn't matter what day it is.

What kind of music do you listen to? Bob Seager.

What is your favorite movie? Man on the Moon, with Jim Carey.

What are you most proud of that not many people know about? I probably can't talk about it! <laughing>

If you could have one wish what would it be? Win the world championship.

What do you do in the off-season? There really isn't any off season anymore. Ill probably get home in the end of November and we are back out testing. I leave the day after Christmas and head back out to Phoenix and start testing. So basically racing is my life right now.

Do you still enjoy racing? I love it.

What was your favorite race memory? Gainsville, winning that race and crashing. I always wanted to win Gainsville, so that was a big win for me.

What is your worst racing memory? Losing to John Force in the final at the 1996 US Nationals.

What was your all time favorite ride and why? My all time favorite rides are when I run Force and beat him. I have beat him when he was on fire, and I have beat him when I was on fire. But my favorite would probably be Phoenix when I was sponsored by Blower Drive Service. I beat him by three or four thousandths. Anyhow, the car blew right up in the lights and he had parts of my car inside his car. That was one of the highlights of my life.

If you could change the NHRA, what would you change if anything? Everybody running it. I'm not going to name any names, but I think I'd start at the top and work my way to the bottom. You don't have a big fall if you go to the bottom with one of them guys.

Do you have a pre-race ritual? No, not really. Just go up there and throw my stuff on and jump in the car and try to go win.

What goes through your mind as you drive down the quarter mile? Doin' my job. Keepin' the car in the center, tryin to feel what the car is doing, and not pushing it to where its gonna blow up. Just tryin feel the run.

What is your favorite race track and why? Gainsville. I mean its close, and I just love the race track. I love the facility. Gainsville, you know being a home track was always a big track that I wanted to win at, and when I did win there... I'd like to win there again and get a chance to go to the winner's circle.

Do you think if the speeds go too far up they will come up with more rules to restrict them? I don't think they will. Its to a point where we pretty much slowed ourselves down. You can just go so fast. It's gonna be tough to make any improvements out there, any big improvements. Sooner or later something will come along, but I don't think the NHRA will try to slow us down anymore.

Where do you see drag racing going in the future? That's hard to say right now, Its obviously going to keep improving and gettin' better, you know sooner or later we are going to run into the E.T. limits. We have been in the 4.70 range for quite a few years now and I don't think your gonna see it go too deeper in funnycar. You may see some 4.60's down the road someday.

<chuckling> Tell my kid when you talk to him on the website quit callin' me old fart or I'm gonna kick his ass!