By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Stacy Kolar
EDGEWOOD, Texas — That explosion in Factory Stock across the great state of Texas is continuing in 2021, and it's showcasing a rich mix of talent from all walks of life. In that mix are drivers with varying amounts of experience, and one of them is making some pretty nice gains in an ultra-competitive class.
For 49-year-old Jeff Hammitt, the 2021 season has been full of learning, travel and consistent runs. In 22 starts so far this year, he's earned one win, nine top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. Solid numbers for a man who's only in his third season of driving a stock car. Starting in his mid-40s makes him a rarity.
“When I turned 46, my wife threw me a birthday party,” Hammitt explained. “It was centered around Karts; all my friends came, we held this big race and had a lot of fun. That kind of gave me the racing bug. We went out to RPM Speedway one night and I said 'man, I can beat these guys.' What a fool.
“I went from sitting in the stands, to finding a car on Craigslist. The next day, I went down to Houston and picked it up. And that's how I got started in racing. I thought I was the man, but in my first Heat race, Walter Hamilton and Chris Davis about lapped me three times. I sure had a lot to learn.”
While his learning curve may still have its steep sections and challenges, he's made some great strides.
“I know guys who've raced for nine or 10 years and don't have a feature win,” Hammitt added. “I'm lucky enough to have 20 wins spread across five different tracks in four classes. I'm very proud of how far we've come, and very grateful for whose who have helped make that possible.”
What makes his numbers from this spring even more respectable is the fact he competes against some very tough customers.
“We started off a little slow, but I think we're getting up to speed here in recent weeks,” Hammitt said. “I didn't really expect to be running at the front. I am one of the least experienced drivers who can run with the fast guys. I can only do it with guidance from some smart veterans willing to help.
“There are three big influences in my racing program who I can't thank enough; Justin Whitehead, Brandon Brown and Walter Hamilton. They're the ones responsible for what I'm learning lately. We go out there to win every night. I know that isn't a reality, but we make our best effort every time out.”
That intense level of competition in Factory Stock across Texas and Louisiana is real for Hammitt.
“We go as fans first, and watch who's doing what at the tracks or on SpeedPass every chance we get,” he explained. “Looking at every division in this state, I don't think you'll find anything else as competitive. It's tough to land in the top five, the top 10, and super hard to win. It's very tight in 2021.”
You may see his numbers and consistent performances this year and think he's in a new, state-of-the-art piece of equipment. Fact is, the steel horse that Hammit rides each week is an older, modest machine.
“I had a different car before that, we rebuilt it in the off-season couldn't get it going the way we wanted it to,” Hammitt said. “So I sold it, and at the last minute right before the Factory Stock 50 at Boothill, I bought an older car for roughly $6,000.
“I picked it up on a Wednesday, started racing it on Thursday night, and made the feature through a B Main. I started the Factory Stock 50 in the 22nd position and was able to drive up to sixth. It's an MRC chassis built by Eric Martin. It just shows you don't necessarily need a new car to be competitive. Justin at Outlaw is building me a new car now, however.”
Along with his impressive ability to study, learn and retain information that helps him gain speed, Hammitt also has several key people working hard behind the scenes to keep his program successful.
“I have to give a special thanks to my beautiful wife and videographer, Kate Hammitt; to my brother, Greg Hammitt, for turning wrenches and helping keep me on the track; and to my Mom and Dad. They all do so much for my racing program.
“I also need to thank my valued sponsors, including Justin Whitehead at Outlaw Race Cars; Brandon Brown and DAMNIT Ben; Billy Vest at Dirt Defender; Dennis Bissonette at Stephenville Starter and Electric; Thmoas Turner at A&T Delivery; Jeff Oster at Lonestar Tire and Accessories; Rowdy Day at Quick Stop Tire Shop; Kate Hammitt at One of a Kate; Patriot Racing, Richard Pickens at Wicked Fast Transmissions; Brian Holland at B&B Underground; Chuck Preasley at Best Engines; Brandon Burgle at TCC Carbs; Neil Kemp at Club 20 Suspension; Erik Scott at Superior Graphix; Blake at Oliver Welding, and the United States Air Force recruits. I couldn't do this without their support.”
Along with that supportive family and long list of marketing partners, Hammit has some realistic goals for the balance of his 2021 season.
“We've never really been points racers in general,” Hammitt concluded. “I've won a Texas Stock title at Buffalo Creek, and finished second at Super Bowl Speedway, and think I'm sixth or seventh right now in USRA points. I just like to win races. Our goal is to win one at Boothill and Ark-La-Tex this year.”