Veteran asphalt Modified and Sportsman driver Chuck Hossfeld will make his final laps this weekend at New York International Raceway Park during the 31st annual three-day U.S. Open weekend.
Hossfeld, of Ransomville, is retiring as a driver at the conclusion of this season.
Before he takes his final bow this weekend at the track formerly known as Lancaster Speedway, Hossfeld, 40, will seek to extend his U.S. Open career win total to nine. He is tied with Andy Jankowiak for most career U.S. Open triumphs with eight. Jankowiak also will be competing.
Joining him in racing retirement will be veteran race track announcer/radio show host/writer Ken Hangauer Jr. Hangauer will click off his announcer's microphone for good after announcing Saturday's U.S. Open Race of Champions TQ Midget Racing Series race at NYIRP.
"On August 2, I made a statement on Facebook that I would be retiring and since then I've had a lot of people come up to me and talk with me," Hossfeld said. "They've shared stories about people, fans and different races and racers and it's been very special to find out how much my racing career has meant to them. It's created a good time for me, but after this year I'll be done as a racer."
The U.S. Open, held annually at NYIRP, is the largest and most prestigious multiday asphalt stock car event in this area.
At this weekend's U.S. Open, which runs Friday through Sunday, Hossfeld will be seeking to take home two checkered flags in the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series. The first attempt will be in the rescheduled Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak Memorial 110 on Friday at 8 p.m. The second will be in Sunday's ROC Modified U.S. Open 125.
The Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak race was rescheduled after it was halted on lap 6 of 110 on Aug. 17, following an accident that damaged the front stretch wheel fence.
In between the twin U.S. Open ROC Modified joust, on Saturday, Hossfeld will compete in the Race of Champions Sportsman Series U. S. Open Joe Reilly Crown Royal Classic 54. Hossfeld has won the ROC Sportsman U.S. Open race the last three years.
While Hossfeld is not expected to drive again at NYIRP, he will appear in a few late-season ROC Modified and NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour events elsewhere before hanging up his helmet following the 17th annual North South Shootout set Nov. 7-9 in Hickory, N.C.
Hossfeld's eight career U.S. Open feature race victories are comprised of Modified wins in 2001, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011 and U.S. Open Sportsman wins from 2016 to 2018.
Hossfeld said he loves racing as much as ever but the hard work, time demands, finances and pressure that it takes to run a competitive team are wearing on him. He also has business concerns outside of racing that require attention and wants to try some new things that he has not had enough time for while racing.
"There's been speculation that I'm retiring because my girlfriend, Shari Geblein, doesn't want me to race and that's not the case at all," Hossfeld said. "I think she'd want me to race until I was 100 years old if I could.
"It just a matter of commitment that I've had and the racing workload that I've had for over 25 years of racing a Modified and that is something that I'm going to step away from."
Hossfeld leaves as one of the most successful local racers in recent history.
Hossfeld was the Modified champion at Lancaster and Spencer Speedway in 1999; a three-time ROC Modified 250 winner at Oswego (1999, 2005, 2014); a four-time ROC Asphalt Modified Series champion (1997, 2011, 2014, 2018); and a two-time World Series of Asphalt Racing champion, including this year.
In addition, Hossfeld has captured nine career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events, including three at the tour's most prestigious track, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Hossfeld also drove with limited success in the NASCAR Truck Series for Roush Racing in 2000-2001.
While complimenting his whole team, Hossfeld gave special mention to two members of his crew, Henry Ketch and Dave Harris, who have been with him his entire driving career.
"I will miss my career, but it's just a matter of how I feel and how much dedication and effort that has been involved with our race team over the years," Hossfeld said. "My career has had its ups and downs but that happens in racing. I knew different situations that were great and different situations that weren't that great but knock on wood, I've always maintained health. I've never gotten hurt.
"I was able to work with some great people whether they've been sponsors, team members of mine or different car owners I've driven for. I don't regret for one minute the amount of time and dedication that it took. I'm very proud of all the different trophies and memories that I can look at. Also 99 percent of the people you meet in racing are great people and I cherish all the friendships made during my career."
Hangauer, a South Buffalo native, has announced at almost every local track over his four-decade career. He is considered a local announcing legend with a professional and knowledgeable voice that has become so familiar to generations. Over the last few weeks since news of his upcoming retirement has spread, many local racing supporters have expressed much gratitude for Hangauer's career.
Hangauer started at Wyoming County Speedway, when it was known as Perry Speedway.
"Ed Serwacki, the late promoter of Lancaster Speedway, promoted out there back then and he gave me an opportunity about 41 or 42 years ago to try announcing and I had a great deal of fun and they paid me money so I thought this is great," he said. "I've been doing it ever since."
Hangauer also has been doing his radio show, "Motorsports Journal" on WXRL for 35 years and said the show will continue.
"I'm retiring because of my age. I will be 83 in January," he said. "I'm not exactly a young man anymore. Simply, it's time.
"Like they say, all good things must come to an end, so I decided this year would be the final year. ... I've always did the best I could. I always tried to have my announcing style be informative and in keeping with the sport, make it a family affair. I always tried to make everyone a race fan. I'll miss it and thank you to everyone who ever had anything to do with my career."