By DANNY SERRANO
As Bridgeport Speedway looks to celebrate and honor the life of Doug Hoffman come March 25, we can never forget the vision that has brought us where we are today. As everyone knows, Doug was my teenage hero growing up. Damn, who am I kidding? He still was my hero when I was 30-years-old! Like I said last year at this same time: It will be a joyous day, a sad day, an exciting day, and a memorable day for everyone that walks through Bridgeport’s gates on Saturday, March 25.
I can remember like it was yesterday, growing up and heading to all the tracks with Gram and occasionally my cousins and friends. Weekly stops at Flemington and East Windsor and monthly visits to Bridgeport and Nazareth were a fixture while growing up. It was in 1985 when I first became a Doug Hoffman fan even though he had been winning prior to then. Leon Conklin’s silver and red No.125 grabbed my attention and ever since then I was a fan. Ironically Hoffman left Bridgeport to call Flemington his home in ’86 and that solidified my passion for the Allentown, PA driver. Billy Pauch was the KING of Flemington and no one really had an answer for him. However, in 1986 Doug Hoffman was the closest thing to that answer. Winning 5 times and runner up and points to Billy, I was happy to see a new track regular come to ‘The Square.’
Honestly, I was a Stan Ploski fan my entire life. But, Stan started to slow down and I kinda needed a new guy or at least an additional guy to root for. Pauch, Hearn, Horton, Cozze, Brightbill and the others already were established and had fans, so I went with the Doug. I never regretted that decision, even though it came with a lot of drama, eye glaring, finger pointing, and shouting matches. Doug had a hell of a career, especially when he took a different route than others. Most of the guys I already mentioned, along with guys like Alan and Danny Johnson, Craig Von Dohren, and many more started on dirt as mere teenagers (15 or 16 years old depending on who you ask). Doug didn’t really hit dirt track racing until he was 21 or 22 years old, thus giving the other guys a nice head start. Doug also stopped way before all the guys we’re talking about as well. I’d have to say he has 482 career wins with about 15 less years than our other dirt track legends….pretty impressive!
When Hoffman took over Bridgeport in 2012, I was happy for him and for short track racing as well. It was just the weirdest thing I thought: Here’s Doug running Bridgeport and me, his biggest fan running New Egypt…head to head on Saturday nights. Doug and I would talk almost every Monday. If my phone didn’t ring by 2pm, I picked up the phone and called him. We’d compare our nights: what went good, what went wrong, I’d give him advice while he taught me some things too. I even got a good laugh out of Doug when I said to him one Monday, “You know Doug, you and I were once the two most hated people at East Windsor each and every Friday, and here we are running the only two dirt track lefts in New Jersey”
See, Doug took over not a sinking ship, but rather a sunken and abandoned ship. After his first and only year at the helm, the ship was still pretty much sunken BUT, the crew and passengers started to come back and morale was bigger than ever. Doug looked at Bridgeport in a different way than most people did and was overly optimistic about the future although in a bleak situation. Listen, I’ve seen the guy start dead last and win races…you couldn’t ever count out Doug Hoffman. He had a vision that saw Bridgeport making a comeback, getting back to where it once was, and even better heading into the future. If Doug Hoffman was anything, he was focused. What Doug wanted to do, couldn’t be done overnight, not even in one season. Fortunately for the Bridgeport Family, he jump started that vision and passed it on to us. As time goes on people forget how they got where they’re at, or why they’re even there. This is Bridgeport’s one race to remember how and why things are the way they are. Doug had a vision for Bridgeport and now the current assembled team has been fortunate enough to see it become a reality. Bridgeport is BACK in a BIG way and it all started with one man’s vision.
So shake off those winter blues and make a trip to South Jersey and come celebrate and remember our friend Doug Hoffman. Come on out and rekindle those ‘summer’ friendships, get caught up on all the gossip, crack open a cold one or maybe a warm one, and oooh yeah, there’s probably going to be some excellent side by side racing too!