There is only one way to describe one of the biggest annual short track events in the country every year, the Anderson 400.
Survival of the fittest.
Eddie Hoffman and Jeff Lane, with 390 laps complete, were the only two drivers on the lead lap.
And when the checkers flew, Hoffman proved that he was the ultimate survivor this night, taking a page from his past and a little help from an old veteran to collect the $10,000 payday.
“It is a great win and a tough race,” said Hoffman. “It’s a race that is up there in everyone’s books. This ranks up there with the World Cup, with Nashville’s All American and others. This is the Anderson 400. There are a lot of Cup guys that have been here and won this race. Mark Martin used to tell me keep the fenders on it till lap 300 and you’ll be ok.
“We came so close in ASA on year to winning this thing. We still joke about that race to this day. We hit the wall with about three to go that year, when I was beating guys like Gary St. Amant, Butch Miller. That year, we lost the rear tires. The left rear was to the cords.
Eddie Hoffman (#8) knows the Anderson 400 is one of the toughest races out there. (51 Photos)
“We weren’t going to make that mistake twice. We had a set of rears in the pits waiting for us tonight. We thought about coming in. We didn’t know if (Jeff) Lane was fast enough to use them though or not. We figured with rears, we could just blow by him. But we took the chance. It is tough being the leader sometimes. One guy said stay out. One guy said bring it in. I just kept it on the track and it worked out.”
The 400 is all about getting to lap 300. Everything that happens between lap 1 and lap 299 just makes way for the final 100 laps. There are always fast guys early, like both front row starters Eddie Van Meter and Tommy Cook, who show flashes of brilliance, but fail to put themselves in contention for the win later.
Hoffman (left) looks over his new hardware, his Anderson 400 trophy.
To be able to win the 400-lap affair, run at the quarter-mile Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Indiana, you must first be able to survive.
The legends of short track racing, from Mark Martin to Dick Trickle to Gary St. Amant, all of whom have run the Anderson 400 (called the Payless 400 for many years when the race was a staple for the American Speed Association), will tell any driver that to be able to win, they need to be able to be around at the end.
On Saturday night, the Anderson 400, now a CRA Super Series sanctioned race, had 16 survivors. But of those 16, only two had a shot to win in the closing laps.
There are guys like Jay Middleton and Chuck Barnes Jr. who get down early and have to fight the rest of the night just to get back on track, even if they fall short.
Then there are guys like Hoffman and Lane. These are the guys that just ride, that just log laps, stay out of trouble and keep the fenders on the car. Then, with skill and a little bit of racing luck, they show up at the end and use those last 100 laps to race for the victory.
Funny though, as both Hoffman and Lane were two of the drivers that got caught down a lap early in the race during pit stops. On a quarter mile track, stops must be done fast to get out in front of the pace car and not many could do so.
Both Hoffman and Lane got down early.
However, as they say, even if you think you are wronged, sometimes things just always seem to work themselves out. Such was the case for Hoffman and Lane, who both got back on the lead lap thanks to timely cautions later in the event.
So Saturday’s green flag was Hoffman’s first laps in the car during the weekend. It proved that the lack of laps didn’t hurt Hoffman at all.
“Joe got no practice on Friday because he broke a ring gear. They gave him three laps of practice before qualifying and he qualified the car 20th. I ran about three sessions here on Thursday, but that was all the time I had in the car since qualifying. The car was decent and I was decent.
“For me, this race isn’t that bad, because of all my experience in enduro races and all my experience with long races. I like the longer races.”
Lane showed he didn’t have anything for Hoffman at the race’s end.
“I really thought we might have something for him there on lap 360 or so,” said Lane. “We were just riding around there all night long. We did that the whole first part of the race. We saw the rain might be coming, so we got up there and took the lead, but it never did rain. I’ll take the third. It is a good run for us. I’m just glad we were in that position at the end of the night.”
Behind those two sat the three guys battling for the final podium spot, all one lap down. Middleton, Tom Harnley and Bobby Parsley all wanted third, but only one guy would get it. That was Harnley.
Harnley moved from fifth to third over the last five laps of
Jeff Lane (#11) led some laps, but had nothing for Hoffman late in the running.
“I was real hot after they put us a lap down after our pit stop,” said Hoffman. “I was fuming in the car. I was trying to explain to them that it was impossible to us to go a lap down. So my guys kept me cool on the radio and it ended up later on we got back on the lead lap. It was luck on how it worked out.
“We got lucky in missing the wrecks and getting by the wrecks. All of the accidents were pretty easy for me to get around. That is unusual for Anderson. It was quite a turnaround from last night, where there wasn’t a fender left on anyone’s car I don’t think.”
On Friday night, teams practiced and qualified for the 400. However, Hoffman wasn’t one of them. Instead, fellow racer Joe Beaver was practicing the #8. Hoffman was off in Minnesota, racing in the NASCAR Midwest Series race at Raceway Park in Shakopee (where he finished fifth).
the event, putting up quite a fight and proving that his #41 was one of the best cars on the track at the end of 400 laps.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ve never been more determined in a race in my life,” said Hernley. “I love this race track and I love this race. We just got caught up with a couple of guys not wanting to be polite. That is the way it goes. So I was just determined to show people what kind of car we had.”
Middleton held on for fourth, while Parsley settled for fifth. Chuck Barnes Jr was the only other car one lap down and finished sixth, with most of the front of his car missing following a tough night.