No matter the situation, it’s virtually impossible to remove the competitive nature from a world-class athlete. Whether it’s on the NBA basketball court, where he played as a Power Forward for 12 seasons, or on the drag strip, Tom Hammonds runs wide open.

The native Floridian was named Rookie of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference while playing at Georgia Institute of Technology and he was selected in the first round by the Washington Bullets, but he didn’t leave his desire to win on the court.

blue sportsman camaro dragster on track
Tom Hammonds enjoys racing his supercharged NMCA Xtreme Street Chevrolet Camaro. (Image/Evan Smith)

Along with basketball, Hammonds has a love of cars, and his current passion is this beautiful 1969 Camaro that he wheels in NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Steet. In fact, even during his playing days, Hammonds found time for drag racing. “I started racing at the NMCA Fastest Street Car shootout in 1992 with my ’69 Camaro street car. We had one of the featured cars, but it was more of a hobby. I kept adding parts, making changes and it got quicker and quicker,” he told us.

supercharged v8 engine in a sportsman camaro dragster
The Steve Morris LSX powerplant is boosted by a Vortech V-30 blower, and generates just south of 2,000 horsepower using Holley EFI. (Image/Evan Smith)

Street-legal drag racing was fun, but eventually, he set a target on NHRA Pro Stock, entering the ranks in 1994. “I began racing Pro Stock part time between 1994-2001 during the NBA off-season, but I took a break from 2002 to 2006 to focus on my South Carolina Chevrolet dealership,” he said. “I got involved with GM and had a car dealership, but eventually I sold it and went back racing full time from 2007 through 2010 with my own engine program. Then the economy tightened up and GM pulled out of motorsports,” he stated.

Impressively, Hammonds logged three runner-up finishes and qualified as high as second at Gainesville Raceway in NHRA competition. “My work ethic transcends into anything I do,” said Hammonds. “When I was racing Pro Stock we had bumps and burses, but we always learned.”

close up of vortech supercharger
A Vortech V-30 Black Racing Series centrifugal supercharger is used to make roughly 31 psi of boost. (Image/Evan Smith)

Even when not on court or track, Hammonds couldn’t suppress his competitive nature. He took that desire to win and directed his energy to the mat, where he advanced in Brazilian Jujitsu earning his Black Belt in just 7 years and becoming a five-time world champion in the Ultra Heavy division.

While Jujitsu provides an amazing physical test, Hammonds missed the speed and acceleration of being behind the wheel. “I got tired of going slow,” Hammonds said jokingly, “I missed drag racing and wanted to get back in competition, but I didn’t want to do it with a big crew, I wanted to do it myself, that was the key. I wanted to get back to my roots and NMCA is where I started. I graduated to Pro Stock, but I always enjoyed my time when I was racing NMCA.” He then made the move and returned to the straight-line sport with another ’69 Camaro.

racer making a race car tuning adjustment on a computer
Hammonds is hands-on with tuning and all mechanical work necessary to compete at a high level. (Image/Evan Smith)

Hammonds targeted NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street, a category designed for full-bodied cars with power adders that typically run mid-to-high 4s at 150-plus mph in the eight-mile. Xtreme Street rules allow racers to use either big- or small-block engines with a wide range of power adder combos based around various weight breaks.

“It was a big decision selecting a class because I didn’t want to be in a situation where I had to rely on a lot of crew members,” he told us. “With this car I can go [racing] and we don’t have to worry about pulling the clutch out every run or doing something to the engine, or whatever. I just come out, have fun, and enjoy the camaraderie.

view of racer inside drag race car
The former NBA star fits nicely in his Jerry Bickel-built Camaro. Hammonds uses a MM Shifter to make the gear changes in his Rossler Turbo 400. (Image/Evan Smith)

“I’ve had this Camaro for over 10 years so when it came time to upgrade it for Xtreme Street, Jerry Bickel Race Cars was the place I went to. I loved Jerry, said Hammonds, “he built me several Pro Stock cars and I had a vision of what this car should be. I wanted to keep it unique with a lot of factory-like detail. It has the Rally Sport hide-away headlights and all the trim. I even have a horn and a passenger seat,” he added.

“Steve Morris handles my engine builds, so we spoke regularly about what it would take to be competitive. We looked at the NMCA rules to figure out the best combination. We wanted to take advantage of the 3,200-lb. weight break because I’m not a small guy,” said the 6-foot 9-inch Hammonds.

blue camaro dragster doing a burnout at track
The former NBA star fits nicely in his Jerry Bickel-built Camaro. Hammonds uses a MM Shifter to make the gear changes in his Rossler Turbo 400. (Image/Evan Smith)

With that, Morris assembled a cast iron LSX with 364 cubic inch displacement, Black Label LS head and he boosted it with a Vortech V-30 Black Racing Series supercharger. The engine sits in a meticulously prepared bay with everything laid out in a clean fashion. The Vortech dumps boost directly into a Mast Motorsports intake, while a Holley EFI system handles fuel and ignition mapping. The setup also utilizes dry-sump oiling and Zoomie headers, and is backed by a Neil Chance converter and a Rossler Turbo 400 transmission.

Open zoomie race headers on a camaro dragster
(Image/Evan Smith)

Along with having the necessary cage and safety gear, the interior is finished with a Holley Pro Dash and the exterior was sprayed in Velocity Blue with silver SS stripes. The Camaro rides on Mickey Thompson rubber wrapped around Weld wheels. There’s also a 9-inch rear, Lamb brakes and twin Simpson parachutes.

“It’s exciting to be out there racing,” Hammonds said. “We’ve run in the 4.60s at 153 mph and I enjoy the class. Everyone has been cordial and I’m looking to making the class better on and off the track.”

top view of a sportsman drag race car
(Image/Evan Smith)
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Author: Evan Smith