He was the centerpiece of one of the most dynamic and successful teams in racing history, and his passing leaves a void that will not soon be filled.
Richard Hoffman passed away on April 30 at age 76 following a brief illness, surrounded by family. It was a quiet end to a life that was loud, action-packed, and filled with success.
Hoffman was the middle generation of Hoffman Auto Racing, a racing team that traces its roots back 90 years. His father, August “Gus” Hoffman, purchased his first race car in the Cincinnati area in 1929, and young Richard counted the days until he was deemed old enough to travel and race with his father. Richard’s son Rob continued the tradition as Richard and Rob worked side-by-side on the family’s race cars for more than 30 years.
Richard Hoffman was not a race driver, as he preferred his role of car owner and mechanic. But among the dozens of men who wheeled the family car through the years, none carried a more fierce determination to win than Richard.
His insatiable appetite for winning was at the center of his personality, and Richard had other notable traits as well. He was well-spoken and educated; he was savvy in the ways of business and his fellow man; he conducted himself with a respectful air. Even in the midst of heated and intense competition he was typically composed and calculating, somehow always able to navigate through adversity.
Richard had a good sense of humor, and he loved a healthy debate. While he could hold a strong opinion on a subject, he was respectful of an opposing point of view and was willing to listen.
He loved sprint car racing, and he dedicated a significant portion of his life to pursuing excellence within the sport.
The first chapter of Richard’s racing experience came when he was a small boy, listening to his father’s tales of race cars and rascals and dusty Sunday afternoons. It wasn’t long before the son was just as infected with the racing virus as father Gus; finally came the day when Gus agreed that Richard was old enough to tag along.
Gus Hoffman was a self-made man, rising from a sparse upbringing to become successful in home construction and real estate. The home base was near Milford, just outside Gus’s native Cincinnati. Blessed with a radiant personality and warm people skills, Gus easily channeled his entrepreneurial spirit toward success.
As Richard matured, he eventually followed his own path into the real estate and development business. The passion for racing that was incubated at a young age never left him, and became a driving force in his life.
Virtually from the time of his birth until his death, racing was a constant companion. While still in this teens Richard took on a growing role with the sprint car owned by Gus, and in due course they were soon partners in car ownership.
In the late 1970s the Hoffman team shifted their emphasis to Indy car racing, and took a self-imposed break from sprint cars. But as Indy car racing rapidly grew more expensive in the mid-1980s, Richard discontinued his involvement in all racing for a couple of years before renewing his interest in sprint car racing in 1987.
At that point things had clearly changed within the family team. With his advancing age, Gus was not as hands-on as he once was. But Richard’s son Rob was now on board, and Rob quickly discovered that the racing passion had passed – thoroughly and effectively – to a third generation within the family.
When Richard returned to sprint cars in 1987 the team initially went winged racing. But the destiny of the team took a historic turn in 1989 when they were convinced by their new driver – Rich Vogler – that it would be a good idea to go USAC racing.
The Hoffman team became a definitive force in USAC racing for the next three decades. Their numbers – 109 USAC sprint car wins (104 National sprint car), 11 National sprint car entrant titles – more than double nearly all of their rivals. The team has scored a total of 117 USAC wins, including Silver Crown and National midget victories. The Hoffman car also won the Little 500 in 2016 with Kody Swanson aboard.
No team has sustained excellence in USAC like the Hoffman team. And that’s just how Richard wanted it.