NASA Profiles: Norm Hamden
Hometown: Sedona, AZ
9-5: AZ Real Estate License/Driving Contracts
Run Group: Race Group
Vehicle: 944 Spec #99
Total Race Starts: 267!
You hear the phrase “I learned how to drive on back country roads” quite a bit. In fact, many legends of motorsports such as Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty, most of the old-school Winston Cup drivers, and of course, Bo and Luke Duke honed their craft in a similar manner. One legend from that era who slipped through the cracks is NASA Arizona’s own Norm Hamden. “West Virgina’s highway system is like Firebird East.. just a couple hundred miles longer”, said Norm during a conversation. Statements and stories like this, which unfortunately didn’t actually include any about Runnin’ Shine with The Dukes, kept popping up in our late-night discussion, so Norm earned his place in NASA Who’s Who history.
“Ok guys–Norm just bought a motorcycle. We’re taking bets on how long he’s gonna be with us.. if you know what I mean”, said a huddled group of employees working at the famed Greenbrier in West Virginia (famed for hosting every President since Eisenhower, and also covering the underground bunker built to shelter Congress during the Cold War). Norm recalls his first experience driving at the age of 11, when his brother took him out to Interstate 77, which was still under construction at the time. After moving some barricades out of the way to get onto the unfinished stretch of road, his brother 7-years his senior, sat him behind the wheel of a 396 Chevelle SS. A quick jaunt to 100mph quickly spurred an interest in cars and driving fast, which continues to this day. Needless to say, eventually Norm won the bet among employees at The Greenbrier in 1993 when he sold the motorcycle and bought the first of two race cars that have filled the Need4Speed void in his life. First time around, it was a 1978 Porsche 911SC.
Rarely as the author do I account my own experiences in this section, but I clearly remember driving into Texas World Speedway in the year 2000 for a Porsche Club event. After the long 1,200-mile tow, I got out, stretched, and remarked about how terrible that drive was. 30 seconds later, a green 911 SC, stuffed full of tires, clothes, helmets, candy bar wrappers and water bottles stormed through the tunnel and into the infield; it was Norm, driving his 911 racer from Arizona to compete for the weekend. Patterns like that have defined Norm’s style, such as the period where he would leave his work at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs at 4pm on a Friday, arrive in Phoenix at 4am on Saturday to drive with NASA all weekend, then make it back to Colorado in time for work at 8am on Monday. Not kidding. And you thought Sedona to PIR was a trek.
Favorite Movie: The Bucket List
20 minutes around PIR, any car: Aston Martin One-77
Is it Spec 944 or 944 Spec: 944 Spec
What’s Cookin’: “I’m a steak, corn and salad kind of guy”
Gormley vs. Paluch: No Comment!
Why do it? “Because my best friends, experiences and my family are the people I see at the NASA Arizona race weekends”, said Norm without any hesitation. We’ve heard this before, but to hear it from someone who has made no stops to attend nearly every event since 1997 and see NASA through just about every change that has ever occurred, really means something. When he’s not racing, Norm has been an instructor for NASA Arizona, in addition to some driving stints in his personal and professional career. “While living in Dubai, I was hired by Tina Turner’s security team to be a driver during a tour stop in the city”, said Norm. Norm has worked as an instructor at the Dubai Autodrome (ask him about his “interview process”, it’s fascinating), graced Hollywood with his presence as a precision driver in The Kingdom, and even climbed Pikes Peak in a Cadillac.
His accomplishments on-track are about as amazing as his whirlwind tour off-track. Of his last 42 race starts in the 944 Spec series, Norm has finished on the podium 38 times including a 3rd place finish at the NASA National Championships in 2009. When asked what his favorite track was, Norm replied: Infineon, Summit Point, and….. Pueblo. Pueblo? Really? “Yes”, Norm insisted. “You just go to the hardware store down the street, get the key for the gate and drive ’till you’re either out of gas, or out of tires.” Given his start in HPDE and racing events on the east coast, his willingness to drive through the night to race, and his current residence out west, Norm has hit up some of the nation’s best tracks, including but not limited to Sebring, Charlotte, Rockingham, Texas World Speedway, Miller Motorsports Park, Mid-Ohio, Second Creek (RIP!) and Road Atlanta.
When he’s not working hard at racing and being the NASA socialite everyone has grown to recognize him as, Norm likes to play golf, relax in Sedona, visit his friends in Phoenix, travel and as you may have picked up, manage some of the finest resorts and hotels in the world. Norm spent some time working in Dubai, UAE just recently. While he enjoyed his time instructing at the Autodrome and living the life overseas, he still insists his best times are spent in the United States, with his comrades here at NASA Arizona. It was too difficult to choose which incredible stories and details to include in this profile section, but next time you see Norm at the track, sippin’ a beer at the NASA BBQ, be sure to approach and ask him about some of his favorite racing stories.. trust me, there are plenty!