SONOMA, Calif. (IMMEDIATE RELEASE) - One year ago, Tom Hammonds was a veteran power forward in the NBA, playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves. His competitive focus was on doing whatever he could to help his team win the NBA championship. It...
SONOMA, Calif. (IMMEDIATE RELEASE) - One year ago, Tom Hammonds was a veteran power forward in the NBA, playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves. His competitive focus was on doing whatever he could to help his team win the NBA championship.
It was a job he had done well for more than 15 years, dating back to his days at Georgia Tech. However, having retired from basketball last September, the Crestview, Fla. native now has his sights set on winning a different title, that of an NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series champion.
"God has truly blessed me by allowing me to do two things in my life that I truly love" said Hammonds. "First, I was able to make a good living by playing basketball, and now I'm a professional drag racer. It's been a great experience, and we're just getting started."
Hammonds may still drive the lane, but now he does it at over 200 mph, with the basketball and short pants having been replaced by a firesuit and his Winnebago Pro Stock Cavalier. The challenge of out-rebounding 7-foot 2-inch Shaquille O'Neal has given way to beating six-time NHRA POWERade champion (and 5-6) Warren Johnson to the finish line. Therefore, when Hammonds arrives in Northern California, his destination will no longer be the Arena in Oakland or the ARCO Arena in Sacramento, but Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, site of the NHRA FRAM Autolite Nationals, Aug. 2-4.
"We're coming into Sonoma in a better position than we ever have before, having run all the races," said Hammonds. "During my NBA days, this would traditionally be one of our first races, so not only would it take us some time to get up to speed, but we'd also be competing against guys who had fine-tuned their cars for months.
"This year, we have a pretty good idea of what our Winnebago/GM Vehicle Cavalier is going to do, as well as a database from previous years' races. I'm not going to flat out tell you that we're going to win the race, but I do like our chances."
Despite the differences in the two sports, Hammonds is still able to draw on his experience as a basketball player to help handle the demands of racing in arguably the most competitive division in all of motorsports. For example, he started the 2002 season in impressive fashion, qualifying in the top half of the field at the first five races on tracks that for the most part, his team had never even seen. In the last few events, however, Hammonds has battled to be consistent.
But with more than 700 NBA games under his belt, Hammonds recognizes a slump as simply part of the business, an unfortunate byproduct of competition that must be dealt with. With a plan already in place, he remains confident in his team's ability to reestablish itself among the contenders in Pro Stock.
"No matter who you are, or what sport you're competing in, sooner or later, you're going to struggle," explained Hammonds. "We knew the start of the season would be a challenge, and although you're never happy unless you win, we're fairly satisfied with our performance. We qualified well for five races and then missed four, went to the final in Chicago and missed the show again in Columbus. It's been tough, but we're not about to quit.
"We've been working non-stop to get our consistency back. We were fast before, and I promise you, we'll be fast again. Fortunately for us, no one is running away with the points. Just like I did in the NBA, we'll take it one race at a time, trying to get hot and put some round wins together. If we do that, we can get ourselves back in the hunt."
Action gets under way at Infineon Raceway with two rounds of professional qualifying on both Friday and Saturday (Aug. 2-3). Final eliminations begin on Sunday (Aug. 4) at 11 a.m. (PST). In addition to Pro Stock, there will be pro competition in the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle divisions. For more information, visit www.infineonraceway.com