By Phil Whipple, RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Mike Frieri
FORT WORTH, Texas — You've heard it before and read it often on these pages, chasing points in weekly short track racing isn't for everybody. It's a stress-filled world where never missing a race and getting the best possible finish each time out becomes the top priority, not simply winning races.
Yet for 42-year-old Damon Hammond, a man with over 25 years of experience behind the wheel, it doesn't seem to be all that daunting. Now in his third year of IMCA Southern Sport Mod racing, the easy-going driver and skilled fabricator from Fort Worth finds himself leading the National points.
In 10 IMCA-sanctioned starts this year, he's earned one win, five top-five and seven top-10 finishes.
“We've had a couple of bad nights, but overall it's been going pretty well this year,” Hammond said. “We broke this past Friday night in Waco, but were were able to borrow a buddy's car to use on Saturday night. Last year, we finished second in the national standings by only 30 points.
“We won the Texas state championship and two tracks championships, so 2020 was a really good year with about 14 feature wins. That may not sound like much, but it is for a low-budget operation like this. We build our own car here and do everything ourselves. We don't outsource any of the work.”
While much of the attention in Sport Mod racing is centered around central and south Texas, Hammond says if you can win at Heart O' Texas Speedway or at Kennedale, you've beaten some of the very best.
“Kennedale has some of the best, hard-nosed racing in the state,” Hammond said. “Plus they always draw a full field of cars. When you can tell people you won at Kennedale, you can be proud as hell. If there is a 20-car field, and that's low for us, there are 15 who can win the thing. It's full of talent.”
And it isn't just at Kennedale that Hammond says you have to be “up on the wheel” to win races.
“Heart O' Texas is my favorite Friday night IMCA-sanctioned track, and it's just as tough there,” he added. “The guys in Sport Mod there in Waco run hard every lap. It's a challenge, but one I enjoy.”
It's interesting to note this is only Hammond's third year driving a Sport Mod. His background in our great sport is extensive, filled with wins, track championships and great memories in two states.
“I was born and raised in Florida, then I moved here to Texas,” Hammond explained. “Back home in Florida, we raced open-wheel Modifieds and also did some Late Model racing. After I moved here, I started building my own cars and competing in the IMCA Stock Car division.
“We stayed in that class for about 10 years before we decided to give the Sport Mod deal a try. The next thing we knew, we were wining races right out of the box. We loved it, and it's working out for us.”
Now here is the part where I tell you this man has a lot in common with Clark Kent. Like so many of his fellow short track racers across Texas, Hammond manages to balance a day job, a successful side business building race cars (Wild Child Race Cars), and racing at two tracks nearly every week.
“I get up every day and go to work for a 7 to 5 job,” Hammond explained. “Then I come home and work in the Fab shop from 6 p.m. until around 11 o'clock or midnight every night. It can wear you out, but I wouldn't do it unless I loved it. I'm blessed with work, family and customers. I'm a happy man.”
What's impressive about this talented wheel-man's performances is the fact he does it with an older car.
“The car I'm racing right now, the one I won back-to-back championships with at Kennedale, is a 12-year-old chassis. I have a brand-new car being worked on the jig here right now, but it won't be done and ready for action for another four or five weeks.
“And as for horsepower, I run a crate motor. I run a cheaper engine than everybody else, but it does the job very nicely. I don't need any more power than what I have now, it's all about the handling package.”
Your IMCA Southern Sport Mod point leader doesn't mind running that old beast a little while longer.
“We're so busy building cars for customers, we don't get much time for my new one. We've actually built 14 new cars over the past off-season, and have five more yet to do. I work on my ride in between customer cars. But I'm not complaining, I'm truly blessed to be this busy.”
Wild Child Race Cars, it appears, is doing very well indeed and keeping Hammond out of mischief.
Along with those years of experience and his incredible natural talent behind the wheel, Hammond also has a few key people working behind the scenes who help make his program so successful.
“I am blessed to have some very nice folks supporting my racing efforts,” he added. “I want to thank David Hood, of Hood Construction and Roofing. We've built him a couple of cars, and he helped me get an engine when we broke one. He's always been a huge supporter of my team, I truly appreciate it.
“I also need to give a special thanks to my father for all he does for me. I want to thank Performance Transmissions, KH Suspension, EquipPro, Wild Child Race Cars, B&B Automotive and Day Motorsports. I couldn't compete at this level without their support.”
With the 2021 season in full swing at nearly every track in the region, Hammond, as calm and cool as a cucumber, has his sights set once again squarely on that IMCA National title. He's well on his way.
“You know, earning wins is nice, but I would really like to secure that National championship this year,” Hammond concluded. “In my first season of Sport Mod, I won a track title and finished third in national points. In my second year (2020), I won another track title and finished second in points.
“This year, I'm hoping we can seal the deal. I'm running as many races as I can, trying to stay ahead.”