Hamster racing is a sport in which hamsters are placed in hamster wheels fitted to miniature racing vehicles and raced down a straight 9 meter (30 ft) course. The hamster crossing the finish line in the shortest amount of time wins. According to a 2001 media report, the world-record time for this course setup is 38 seconds.
Events may feature as few as two hamsters or many teams of hamsters and human pit crews. Hamster balls may be simple spheres or feature many design modifications purported to increase the performance and style of the race vehicle.
Race hamsters are almost always divided into at least two race classes, which follow their species classifications: dwarfs and Syrians. They are also often divided into other race classes, such as novice, patterned and long-hair or short-hair.
Not all hamster racing is done professionally or for betting purposes. Amateur hamster races are popular at church outings and frequently occur at hamster and rodent shows. Amateur races generally do not conform to the professional 9 meter (30 ft) track distance but may use shorter "sprint" tracks designed to make sure all hamsters finish in a reasonable time. Fast hamsters are capable of winning sprint races in just a few seconds.
In early 2007, Petco announced the return of biannual hamster races in all of its stores. The event is branded the "Petco Hamster Ball Derby" and takes place in late March and early September of each year.
The 2006 races featured more than 14,000 amateur race hamsters and their owners in Petco stores across the country.
Petco uses a nonstandard short track and hamsters run in common spherical balls rather than the elaborate "drag racers" that professional race hamsters often use (see MTV Sponsorship infra). Races usually only last a few seconds due to the length of the track.
Winners receive various prizes such as gift cards, training equipment and hamster treats.
The first HamTrak race, held on May 19, 2006 at the Hammywood Hills Rodent Raceway, was won by the New Media Age sponsored "Team Hot Rodent," powered by the eight-month old female Syrian hamster Michelle Schuhamster. It was her 24th career win.