Returning back to his home town of Crestview, Florida, after a successful career in the NBA, Tom Hammonds is also returning to his true passion—drag racing.
Standing tall at 6’9”, Hammonds played the power forward position for the Washington Bullets, Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, and Minnesota Timberwolves as recently as 2001, and also won a gold medal at the ‘86 FIBA World Championship with the US national team. He’s no stranger to success, that’s for sure, and he’s no stranger to racing as he also campaigned an NHRA Pro Stock entry in the ‘90s.
“I’ve been to three final rounds, but I’ve never won one yet,” laughed Hammonds, who has always been a drag racer at heart, even in his basketball days. “I’m grateful that my career paid the bills to enable me to go racing.”
Now, at 52 years old, Hammonds is getting back into the swing of things and has decided to make NMCA his team of choice for 2020 and beyond. As he’s always had an affinity for ’69 Camaros, that’s exactly what he ordered up from his longtime friend and chassis builder, Jerry Bickel of Jerry Bickel Race Cars.
Extreme care was taken during the build to stick to the NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street rulebook mandates, though, as Hammonds has focused on the category for a few reasons. Mostly, “it’s a great class with cars that resemble street cars and it sticks to the roots of what the sport is really all about,” he explained.
Although the engine combination is still being finalized, Hammonds has opted to run small displacement Chevy power to take advantage of the weight breaks. For a power adder, he will most likely go with a ProCharger supercharger, but a turbocharger option has also been discussed.
Steve Morris of Steve Morris Engines has been leading the way on the build, and Hammonds is confident that the accomplished motor master will put together a competitive bullet.
Similarly, Hammonds has a longstanding relationship with Carl Rossler from Rossler Transmissions – the two raced together quite a bit in the ‘90s—and has selected a Turbo 400 from the company to do gearbox duties.
“With anything of this scale, it takes work, and effort, and time,” noted Hammonds, who has no visions of grandeur or of simply hopping in and winning—especially in a class as competitive as NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street. “We have to go out and test and make sure what we have has what it takes to be successful first.”
With a realistic attitude towards the process, Hammonds has been out of the driver’s seat for a little while and knows he’s going to need a little tune-up himself, too. As such, he’s secured time with Roy Hill’s Drag Racing School to dust off the cobwebs, update his license, and be ready to go as soon as his car is as well.
“I can’t wait to get back to my roots with racing and have fun again,” he said happily. “We’re going to try to make it to the NMCA season opener race in Florida, but if the car isn’t ready, we may have to wait until Georgia—no matter what, we’re gonna be racing all season long.”