BY ALLEN GREGORY BRISTOL HERALD COURIER
ABINGDON, Va. — Kylin Hammer had a life-changing moment six years ago.
The setting was Daytona International Speedway and the event was the Daytona 24 Hour Endurance Race.
“I loved what I saw and have been hooked on sports car racing since that day,” Hammer said.
Shortly after returning to Abingdon, Hammer hatched an ambitious plan to work in the diverse sport.
“A lot of people have big goals, but they don’t invest or are afraid to achieve them. I did everything I could to make my dream come true,” Hammer said.
After serving as an intern last summer, the 20-year-old Hammer is entering his first season as a data engineer with famed team Flying Lizard Motorsports. Based in Sonoma, Calif., the Flying Lizard company has won 10 sports car championships.
“My hopes were high, but I had no idea things were going to happen so quickly for me,” Hammer said.
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The pace is about to get a whole lot faster for Hammer. He will compete in the International Motorsports Association (IMSA) North American Lamborghini Super Trofeo series for Flying Lizard, which will also field cars in the Porsche Sprint Challenge, GT4 America and GT America series.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity that I’m grateful for,” Hammer said. “Flying Lizard owners are legends of the sport, and team apparel can be seen at every road race across the country. I will be surrounded by veteran racers and crew members, and I look forward to to learn all kinds of new things.
Hammer’s journey is unique in several ways. He got his start in motorsports at the age of seven racing go-karts at the old Beechnut Raceway in Blountville and Dumplin Valley Raceway in Kodak, Tennessee.
Shortly after winning a track title in the Junior Champ division in 2013, Hammer turned his attention to the world of short track at Kingsport Speedway where he won Rookie of the Year honors in the Mod class. 4.
“I finally tested in a late-model car, but just wanted to try something different,” Hammer said.
How did Hammer make the leap from rugged stock cars to exotic sports cars?
“I showed up at the tracks, watched it all, asked questions and told my story,” Hammer said.
Hammer had paid his debt. An honorary student in East Tennessee State University’s engineering program, Hammer was recently accepted into UNC Charlotte’s motorsport engineering program. This vast program was a launching pad for future NASCAR engineers.
“I realize that NASCAR is the great sport of northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia and I started down that path,” Hammer said. “For various reasons, I’m more interested in the sports car side.”
That interest grew last season when Hammer was offered his internship with the K-PAX Racing team. He has helped K-PAX racers for events at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Road America in Wisconsin, Sebring International Raceway in Florida, Watkins Glen Raceway in New York, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the eight-hour Fanatec GT World Challenge.
Next up for Hammer will be the 2022 Super Trofeo season opener at Laguna Seca Raceway in scenic Monterey on April 29. Races at Watkins Glen, Road America and VIR will follow before the World Finals in Portimao, Portugal.
Hammer has his passport and notebook ready for new adventures. As data engineer, Hammer will be stationed in the pits where he will download data, check telemetry and consult with riders.
“It was great working at tracks like Indianapolis last year, and I want to continue to build my knowledge base with this world-class team,” Hammer said. “The Lamborghini I’ll be working with can go 180mph straight away and has a lot of downforce and aero. I’ll be working with all of our drivers and learning things that will carry over when I get back in a car.
That’s right, Hammer still plans to get back behind the wheel of his own race car.
“I just bought a new wetsuit and running shoes last weekend,” Hammer said. “I’m just waiting for an opportunity.”
For now, Hammer is content to follow a path that started on a sunny afternoon at Daytona Insertion Speedway.
“Sports car racing is growing nationally and internationally,” Hammer said. “I would like to create more interest in the sport in the south, as well as educate and inspire young people like me to pursue their own dreams.
“It’s a matter of determination and constant learning.”
[email protected] | Twitter: @Greg_BHCSports | (276) 645-2544