Hammonds likely fan favorite at Southern Nationals
Tom Hammonds won't have any troubles dealing with any added attention he may receive this season. After all, the ex-NBA veteran is used to the attention and pressure that comes along with being a professional athlete.
Hammonds, a Georgia Tech graduate, said he will only enjoy having extra friends and family in the stands when the NHRA POWERADE Drag Racing Series stops by his former stomping grounds.
"My mom is coming up from Florida and my uncle lives in the Atlanta area, so we should have more than our fair share of family and friends," Hammonds said. "One thing I learned while playing pro basketball is that people are going to come and watch. If you can't handle that in pro basketball, you sure couldn't handle racing at the NHRA tracks. I'm used to that and I know what I have to do to prepare myself and the team in order to perform. Having (more) friends and family in the stands won't be a distraction."
Driving his Winnebago Chevy Cavalier, Hammonds is looking for his first professional victory as a drag racer and would love for it to come at the 22nd annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, May 2-5. Mike Dunn, Frank Pedregon, Jim Yates and Antron Brown are the defending winners in their respective categories for the $1.8 million race, the seventh of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERADE Drag Racing Series.
In fact, Hammonds has never raced at Atlanta Dragway as a Pro Stock driver, but even that doesn't seem to bother him.
"I'm looking forward to racing there because I haven't had a chance to compete in Atlanta as a professional yet," he said. "I lost a lot of drag races in college; a lot of drag races. When I was going to Georgia Tech I would go watch the professional races there and see all the great drivers that the event brings in. Now I finally get to be a part of that and it is very exciting for me."
Hammonds will have to battle a tough Pro Stock class in order to break through for his first victory. In the first six races of the season, there were six different winners. Hammonds believes the team is capable of joining that list.
"It's been a roller coaster ride for us," Hammonds said. "We have done well at times and we have stunk up the place at times as well. I think as the season goes on, we are going to get stronger and stronger. We are taking care of business and we have made some good runs. We have been plagued with engine problems in a couple of races, but that can't last forever."
Hammonds retired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in September, opting to go racing full time. While the move has paid off with better qualifying positions and rounds won, Hammonds knows the team is still dealing with a lack of experience.
"We are still racing at a lot of tracks that we have never been to before," Hammonds said. "We don't have a lot of data for our Winnebago Chevy Cavalier. But I still think that if we stay focused, I like our chance in the long run. I think we can contend for the championship, but we have got to stay focused as a team. We have to start taking care of business pretty soon so we don't let the frontrunners get too far ahead of us in the point standings."
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