by: Tim Glover
Ike Hamma recently lost a six and a half year battle with cancer, but has left a legacy the drag racing world will remember for a long time.
"He's one of the grandfathers of bracket racing," said Ron Folk of Folk's Race Cars, a long-time family friend. "I can't say enough good about him. He was so innovative. That's what led to the delay box. He was one of my closest friends; even my kids called him Uncle Ike. He was a stout family man." Not everything Folk and Hamma collaborated on worked, but both gave it their all. "He was relentless until a problem was solved," Folk remembered.
Hamma's first performance vehicle was a '62 Chevy 409, and he has been involved in drag racing since 1965. He began by racing motorcycles, using a Harley Davidson he purchased in 1968, and started racing in 1970. He had a successful career, setting records in '75, '76 and '77. He raced all over the country, and his wife Pat remembered a one week period where he raced at Atco in New Jersey, and then California the next weekend.
"Ike was one of the original traveling racers. He started in the late 70s and for a while was one of the few racers who came to the track in a motorhome. He traveled everywhere. That was his life," said Ron Folk. "One of his trademarks was he was always ready to go to another race, even before the current race he was entered in was over. He was always helping people. He would drop what he was doing to help others," added Folk.
Another distinction Hamma has is being one of the dozen or so racers to attend every Moroso Five-Day Bracket Championship race Moroso Motorsports Park has put on. "He was really looking forward to the 20th anniversary celebration scheduled this year. Now it means even more to me," added Folk, who is also a member of that elite group.
Hamma's success with bracket cars began in 1979 when he purchased a front engine dragster. He promptly won the 26th annual World Series of Drag Racing event at Cordova, Illinois, taking home $3000 for his efforts. He also runner-upped at the Turkey Trots in Bradenton that year. It was this car that became the first test bed for a rudimentary delay box he was developing. "It was actually a series of timers set up in sequence," his wife Pat said. The Hamma family has the patent on the crossover delay box.
In 1980, he bought his first Camaro, and enjoyed several more wins, including a $5000 win at Hollwood, Florida. In 1984, he bought another Camaro and won the Divison Three Super Pro ET finals racing for Cordova. Never one to sit still for long, he built a Daytona in 1985, which his family still owns. It won the Best Engineered award that year at the Brainerd, Minnesota NHRA event. He then won the Division Five ET Finals in 1991. This was one of his most memorable wins, because he won a race the week before, won a high-rollers race the weekend of the finals, and then capped it off with the Division Five win. He almost repeated the feat in 1992, finishing runner-up in the 1992 Division Five ET finals.
Pat couldn't recall all of his wins, saying, "He just won races at lots of different places. Every win was important. Each time he won there was always something that made it special." In one weekend at Great Lakes Dragaway he won a 10K race and then the 5K race.
Other memorable wins include a Division Five Super Comp win in 1999 at the Tri-State Raceway in Earlville, Iowa. In 2000 he won a shootout race for everyone who had won a division race in 1999. Five "Wallys" adorn the trophy shelf in their home. Although he didn't win the 2000 Mother's Day race at Tri-State in Earlville, he cherished the memory because he raced his son Charlie in the final.
He raced in the now defunct Championship Bracket Racing Association and became world champion in 1988 for that series.
Long before forming Digital Delay, the Hammas started their own upholstery business in 1968, called Ike's Upholstery. They have three children; Charlie, Jeff and Angela. They also have four grandchildren. Charlie, the racer, is involved with the operation of the Digital Delay business. Jeff bought Ike's Upholstery two years ago. Angela is in admitting at St. Ambrose in Davenport, Iowa.
Drag racing was not his only passion. Hamma also enjoyed bass fishing, doing a lot of it in the last six to seven years.
Hamma's contributions and achievements in the drag racing world will be remembered for a long time.