GM Racingy - Tom Hammonds spotlight

Chevy Cavalier driver Tom Hammonds weighs in on school days, racing safety and staying competitive in NHRA Pro Stock. GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 5, 2003 - Like the long list of formidable competitors pursuing success on the NHRA Pro Stock circuit,...

Chevy Cavalier driver Tom Hammonds weighs in on school days, racing safety and staying competitive in NHRA Pro Stock.

GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 5, 2003 - Like the long list of formidable competitors pursuing success on the NHRA Pro Stock circuit, Chevy Cavalier driver Tom Hammonds continues his relentless effort to improve the performance of his racecar. Balancing the quest of acquiring his own GM automobile dealership with the demands of fielding a first-class race team, Hammonds has learned the necessity of properly budgeting his most valuable resource - time.

"I love racing and I love competing, said Hammonds. "To be racing against guys like Warren Johnson, Jim Yates, Ron Krisher and Jeg Coughlin, and for the opportunity to go head-to-head against the best drivers in the world is what motivates me to succeed."

Hammonds tested his Winnebago/GM Vehicle Care Chevy Cavalier at the Pontiac Pro Stock Super Bowl at Houston Raceway Park, a week before the opening bell of this season's POWERade championship campaign at Pomona Raceway. Hammonds, along with other professional drivers attending the Houston invitational, got an eye-opening presentation there on racing safety from Tom Gideon, GM Racing safety manager.

"I went into the GM safety seminar thinking that I had all the safety equipment I needed to be secure in my Chevrolet Cavalier at 204 mph," said Hammonds. "But after seeing some of the in-car camera footage that Tom (Gideon) brought to the seminar, I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything I could. He came by our pit area, checked me over with my helmet and my HANS on, made modifications to the device I was using and now I feel very comfortable with it. When I first got my HANS last December it was a little uncomfortable, but after the first 10 or 11 passes, I got used to wearing it.

"The adjustment I've had to make was getting out of the car with my helmet and my HANS on at the same time. I'm able to do that pretty easily now and I'm making it a habit. I'm comfortable, and my family and teammates are comfortable knowing that GM has provided the best safety equipment available for me, and for use by all of the racers. That's the kind of research-and-development work that will enable a driver to get out of a car and walk away in case of an accident."

After falling short of the 16-car starting lineup at the Winternationals, the 35-year-old Hammonds was on a midnight flight to Tampa where he was scheduled to attend a Management Retail Operations (MRO) course, one of the final legs in Hammonds' participation in the GM Minority Dealer Development program. The MRO guided Hammonds and a class of 15 participants through an intensive instruction course putting individuals through scenarios they might encounter as a dealership proprietor.

Following a stop in Phoenix for the CSK Nationals, the Georgia Tech graduate found himself across the continent the very next Monday and back in the classroom in McLean, Va., at the National Automobile Dealers Association Academy. Here Hammonds completed the last segment of a yearlong curriculum that instructed the former NBA standout in areas such as business management and the fundamental operating procedures that make a GM automobile dealership successful. On Feb. 28, Hammonds was presented with a diploma from the NADA Academy.

"This has been a great experience for me and all of the GM Minority Dealer Development candidates," said Hammonds. "I commend GM for putting together this program. I didn't know what to expect when I came in. After completing my training at the NADA Academy and at Vince Whibbs Pontiac-GMC, I feel very confident of running my own GM dealership in a nice productive manner, as well as being able to take care of my customers and employees. That's what it's all about for me."

With the addition of new products and brand models into the GM fold, Hammonds feels it's an exciting time to be in the car business. "GM has taken the design of their products to the next level. They've come up with new products that are cutting edge and they're giving the consumer what they're asking for. GM is doing a great job in creating new and exciting brands. This is a fun time to be in the business."

With the NHRA schedule ready to hit full stride later this month in Gainesville, Fla., at the Gatornationals, Hammonds will be looking to get his Chevy Cavalier back on track. Prior to the start of the season, he assembled a new crew that includes Tom Pierson, along with Kyle Nordeste to join Brian Morris who was with the team last year. As the group works through their inherent growing pains, Hammonds is confident that the results on his 1300-horsepower Chevrolet will show improvement.

"With any new crew you're going to have some ups and downs," explained Hammonds. "I have to be a little bit more patient, but at the same time we have to start running a better, and up to now we haven't done that. The first two races we've been very, very inconsistent and we have to correct that. We have a lot of work to do, but we'll get this program straightened out. I'm not going to stand for us not being competitive.

"We have all the right parts, we have all the right pieces. I think we had some problems in Pomona in the rear end of our Winnebago Chevy Cavalier. We rectified them for Phoenix, but we could never quite catch up with our setup. We know going to Gainesville it will be the start of a whole new season, and we've given our competition enough of a head start. Now it's time to come off the bench and get back into the game.

"Margin of error in Pro Stock is nonexistent. A good, clean run every time you leave that starting line is imperative. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. You've got to make every run count if you plan on qualifying and going rounds."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Ron Krisher , Tom Hammonds