Racing is a family affair for the HammittsLifting herself up over the driver’s side window, fastening her bright pink seatbelts and revving up her thunderous engine, Annika Hammitt enjoys every bit of her purple and pink Buick Regal.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Lifting herself up over the driver’s side window, fastening her bright pink seatbelts and revving up her thunderous engine, Annika Hammitt enjoys every bit of her purple and pink Buick Regal.
Just a 15-year-old, she’s too young to drive legally. But on area pure stock car racing tracks, the rookie looks more like a lofty veteran.
“You only have to be 14 to race,” said Hammitt, a Cloquet High School sophomore. “It’s a lot of fun. And I just got my permit in June.”
Likely to pass her future driver’s exam with no sweat, Annika said she got hooked to pure stock car racing because two of her three older brothers, Matt, 25, and Jon, 20, are also avid racers. Annika said she decided to try racing this summer after helping each of her brothers in the pits.
“I would help them change the oil, the tires and adjust the air pressure at different tracks,” she said of her pit duties. “I just started to learn a lot about cars. Now they give me pointers. It is a lot of fun.”
Like his younger sister, Jon recently joined the sport, too. A junior at St. Cloud State University, he is in his second year of racing and was named Rookie of the Year at the Proctor Speedway last summer. He finished highest in the points standings at Superior Speedway as well.
“I love it,” Jon said. “When you’re out there in your car racing, it’s an adrenaline rush. It’s indescribable. It’s something we all love to do.
“Matt started racing first, and then I just wanted to do it, too,” he continued. “I went out, bought a car and have been doing it since then.”
Jon said they race every Sunday evening in Proctor. Usually one other night per week, they head to Superior, Ashland, Grand Rapids or the Hibbing race tracks. On the off days, they work on their cars for hours.
All three are talented racers. Jon has recently been on fire, placing in the top five in the five past feature races, while Annika edged Jon in a heat race in Proctor and beat Matt for a heat win in Superior. Matt, meanwhile, owns the siblings’ only feature racing victory.
Matt pointed out that their father, Brian, is like their crew chief, always helping repair and tune up cars at home and in the pits during races. Brian used to race at the Carlton County Fair, until he turned his attention to his children. Matt said Dad keeps all three level-headed even when emotions get intense between the brothers and sister.
“My sister hit me in early June and I was out for the race,” Matt recalled. “That’s the most angry I’ve been all year. I had to replace my whole rear end and had my car at the frame shop for eight hours.”
Annika drives her purple and pink Regal, while Matt sports the same model in baby blue. Jon, meanwhile, loves his rusty red Chevrolet Monte Carlo. All three vehicles are beat up, banged in and have faded paint. With numbers visible and engines loud, the cars are in perfect racing shape.
“They spend a lot of time down in the pole barn,” said their mother, Stephanie Hammitt, of the family’s enlarged backyard garage that serves as mechanic shop. “There are worse things they could be doing. Racing is good. It’s taught them a lot.”
Annika said car racing is the usual chatter around home.
“We’ll talk about it at the table, in the pole barn and after races, too,” she said. “We’ll sit down and watch our races together and see what we can work on. My brothers are always helping me with stuff.”
The family even has its own team name called Hammitt Racing. Wearing fluorescent shirts, hats and with family stickers on the cars, Matt explained they are known around the tracks as the Hammitt cars. Their father thought of the idea for the hats and shirts, Matt said.
Matt is the seasoned veteran of the trio, now in his sixth year of racing. He said going to the races as a kid with his grandpa, Pete Defoe Jr., was what caught his interest to the high-speed sport.