POMONA, Calif., February 1, 2001 - With his NBA playing days over, Tom Hammonds is ready to switch gears and make the full transition to NHRA Pro Stock drag racing. He'll do so by strapping his 6'9" frame into the sleek, aerodynamically efficient...
POMONA, Calif., February 1, 2001 - With his NBA playing days over, Tom Hammonds is ready to switch gears and make the full transition to NHRA Pro Stock drag racing. He'll do so by strapping his 6'9" frame into the sleek, aerodynamically efficient package of the Chevy Cavalier for the full 23-event schedule. From a racing point of view, it will be quite a change for Hammonds, who before was only able to compete on the quarter-mile between basketball seasons. But now a new challenge awaits the two-time all-SEC conference power forward, and that's the grind and pressure of competing for the POWERade Pro Stock championship with the likes of Warren Johnson, Jim Yates, Jeg Coughlin, Kurt Johnson, Bruce Allen and others.
Hammonds will have all the necessary tools to contend for the Pro Stock title in '02 including a slick, Winnebago-sponsored Chevy Cavalier powered with engines supplied by Ron Krisher. Last year, this combination enabled Hammonds to make a strong finish with his first career final round at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals in Dallas followed by his second runner-up at the ACDelco Nationals in Las Vegas a week later. A different kind of full-court press awaits Tom Hammonds this year, but the Florida native is ready for the new challenge that begins with the K & N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway on February 7 - 10.
Did you prepare for the race season any differently this year? "We are preparing with more of a purpose. The last four or five years when I only had the luxury of running half the season, we were rushing trying to get everything done and we were just trying to go out and do the best we could. But now we're expecting to do well. There aren't any excuses anymore. We're on the same playing field as everyone else."
Is there a little momentum after last year's strong finish? "It's definitely encouraging, but you're only as good as your last race as far as I'm concerned, just like you're only as good as your last basketball game. We're not going to rest on anything we've done in the past. As far as I'm concerned we haven't accomplished anything yet. We're working very hard and we're hoping to have a good test session in Houston and hopefully carry that over to Pomona."
What are your thoughts as you begin your first full NHRA season? "It's very businesslike. I'm excited, but at the same time this is my job. Ever since I was a little kid I've wanted to play basketball and race. My team and I are going to be very businesslike and professional. We haven't accomplished anything on the racetrack, and we want to go out there and perform and show that we're professionals."
How did your first preseason test sessions help you prepare for 2002? "We tested in Bradenton, put 17 runs on our Chevy Cavalier and learned quite a bit. At the same time we didn't have anything that was broken, so we weren't really fixing anything, we were just testing carburetors, breaking in tires and working on our combination - no big changes for right now. The only thing is that we hired Mike Matthews and he's coming on board to help us out. Tim Roberts, my longtime personal friend and crew member, went back to spend more time with his family. That's the only major change."
After racing the Chevy Cavalier, are you confident of its performance capabilities? "The potential of the Chevy Cavalier is unbelievable. One of the good things about the Cavalier is that I'm 6'9" and have plenty of room - it's a complete, fun-to-drive package and a joy to drive. That became even more evident during our last seven to eight races of 2001 when we were usually in the top two in the backhalf. In my opinion, our Chevy Cavalier stacks up with the competition very well and having great horsepower from Ron Krisher doesn't hurt either. We're looking forward to showing everybody the performance capabilities of our Chevy Cavalier."
What are your expectations for 2002? "My major goal is to win races. Ultimately, once you start winning races you start winning championships. That's what our goal is, to win a championship. I think we've put ourselves in a pretty good position to go out and compete, but we're going to take it one step at a time and that first step is qualifying at Pomona."
Do you miss playing basketball? "You know, whenever I think that I'm missing it I look back and think about all the plane rides, sleeping in the hotels and being away from my family, and the missing part goes away pretty fast. I do like to watch the Timberwolves, but they're pretty much the only team I do watch and they seem to be doing pretty good right now."
Are you still happy with your decision to go racing full time? "God has blessed me to be able to do two things in my life that I wanted to do, and that was to play NBA basketball and be a professional NHRA Pro Stock drag racer. I'm looking forward to starting this career."
Have there been any difficult adjustments you've had to make? "The biggest adjustment was waiting all winter long to get back in the car. Last year I didn't want the season to end. Just going back and regrouping and getting ready for 2002 was probably the biggest adjustment I've had to make."
Is racing something you plan to do for many years? "Yes it is. I've been blessed to be able to participate in two professional sports, and I don't want to be one of those guys that's here one minute and gone the next. I am very serious about racing, and my sponsors know that, so I plan to be a part of it for many years to come."