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Hammonds Has His Chevy Cavalier Back In The Groove

When Tom Hammonds tumbled his Pro Stock Chevy Cavalier earlier this year during Friday-night qualifying at the Lucas Oil Products Nationals in Joliet, Ill., he was determined not to let the episode shatter his racing ambitions. Last month at the NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minn., Hammonds debuted a brand new Jerry Bickel-built Cavalier and busted his way into the 16-car field for the first time this season, qualifying in the No. 9 position. Two weeks later at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Hammonds drove his Winnebago Chevy into the top half of the lineup by qualifying in the No. 7 spot. Although he lost in round one at both venues, his performance at the last two events indicates that Hammonds is back on track.

The 34-year-old Hammonds was a collegiate basketball standout at Georgia Tech University where he was twice named to the first-team ACC All-Conference team (1988-89). He ranks fifth on the Yellow Jackets all-time list in scoring (2081), sixth in rebounds (885), sixth in field-goal percentage (.566) and fifth in minutes played (4387). Upon Hammonds' departure from Georgia Tech, Yellow Jackets coach Bobby Cremins called him "the hardest-working player I've ever had."
It's not easy fitting into a race car when you're almost 7 feet tall. Tom raced this 3200-lb. '69 Camaro back in the middle '90s.

Hammonds also enjoyed a 12-year career as an NBA power forward, first with the Washington Bullets (1990-92), then with the Charlotte Hornets (91-92), the Denver Nuggets (92-97) and most recently with the Minnesota Timberwolves (98-01). Because of his commitment to his professional basketball career, Hammonds had only been able to compete as a Pro Stock racer during the NBA off-season. He announced his retirement from basketball this year at Joliet and now will be able to devote his full attention to drag racing.

"Racing and basketball are not very different at all as far as I'm concerned," said Hammonds. "They're both team-oriented sports, and I like that aspect of it, but at the same time I'm one-on-one against another driver. It's the same thing as being one-on-one with another basketball player. You give me your best shot, and you better believe I'm going to give you my best shot, and we'll see who wins. You prepare the same mentally as far as getting yourself up for the challenge. Obviously, dribbling a basketball is much different from letting the clutch out of a car and shifting, but as far as preparing for it and the overall picture, they're not that far apart."

What caused the incident in Chicago?

"We'd been having a lot of problems with the car pushing to the left at about the eighth-mile. We found out there was material in the rearend housing that was kind of being wallowed out. Basically, we had to readjust the four-link every time we made a pass to try and compensate for the wallowing-out effect of the material. We were going to fix it on Saturday, so we went ahead and ran Friday night thinking it would be okay. The car launched pretty straight and was going down through there pretty good, but then it veered left at about the eighth-mile - that right lane has a pretty serious bump in about the same area. After that I pretty much had to just hang on."


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