Grand Terrace, CA February 21, 2013: The road to being “King”
“King” of the Hammers, what does that mean?
This is a question that has gone through my mind many times. My experiences with the race have ranged from being a co-driver for John Reynolds “JR” in the first King of the Hammers race, to having my transmission retire at race mile 26 of the 2012 King of the Hammers. This sport is like no other, yes there are truck races in the desert and yes there are timed races in the rocks but it wasn’t until King of the Hammers combined these two disciplines into an event, that I was hooked. There have been many great desert guys attempt the win, but to date the rock racers have taken top honors.
After the 2012 King of the Hammers, my primary focus was building race cars for clients – all while reflecting on my past bids to be “King”. I kept coming back to the Bomber Chassis design and knew this was the car to beat. At the off-road expo in October the potential buyer of my race ca came down to finalize the deal. I was torn about selling my personal car but, I knew it was the right deal at the right time. I started thinkin about building a trail rig like my old “Bash Buggy”, but I could not get the racing bug out of my head, I had been so close to winning in past years I knew I had to build another Bomber Chassis and make it my year to win King of the Hammers.
Approximately 45 days later, with the support of my new fabricator Kyle, and my valued sponsors, BFGoodrich for our Competition KRT-B tires, King Shocks for our industry winning race tuned suspension, Currie Enterprises for their axle products, CBM Motorsports for a 425 Stroker power plant, LAT Racing Oils for all of our Fluids, Baja Designs for our lighting package, BTR Wheels, Bulldog Winch, CBR Radiators, Reid Racing, JE Reel Drivelines, PRP Seats & Belts and Heavy Metal Concepts we were out tuning our latest Bomber Fabrication Ultra4 Race car for the 2013 King of the Hammers.
We arrived on the infamous Johnson Valley lake bed on Saturday, February 2, 2013 and this year something felt different. We needed to wrap up our suspension tuning with King Shocks and fix a power steering pump that broke during testing, but those were our largest hurdles. This year we were feeling more prepared then years past. Before we knew it, Tuesday was upon us and we were to LCQ in the 62nd position. In the midst of our prep work I did not have a chance to run the race car on the qualifying course, I basically walked the course Monday night when Dave extended the practice hours and that was it. My co-driver and brother, Mike Slawson was able to cover the LCQ course a few times so I felt confident he would keep me going in the right direction.
Starting LCQ the desert sun was starting to set when our number was up to qualify, our crew said a couple good lucks and told me to make it happen. The green flag dropped and my CBM power plant made short work of the infield, making the left turn onto the straight away before the sand wash was tough, the setting sun was almost blinding. We hit the sand wash and I could hear Mike telling me to “get it”. We were soon to the rock section, we chose to run the left line at the top and got hung up for a few seconds but soon we were on the side hill cross grain sections and letting our BFG tires and King suspension do what they do best. We hit the first little climb and started home with just King Mountain left to climb, I could feel my CBM 425 Stroker putting power down and before we knew it we were on the desert floor heading for the finish line. Driving up to the finishing podium I felt we had a solid time, a time that would keep us in the first five rows for the big race, we qualified 9th. The best part, we did not hurt the car and I felt we had plenty more to give for race day. After qualifying our next step was to confirm our race strategy. We got together with the Dust Junkies who were pitting for us and worked through a couple of scenarios. The best strategy kept coming back to doing Backdoor on the first lap if we had a breeze of any kind, that would help keep us out of the dust.On race day,we started out ninth place.
We knew that Matt Messer was headed for backdoor on his first lap. We wanted to get up there and run Backdoor and Resolution first, so we penned it to get around them at the Gate Keeper getting first crack at Backdoor. Once we conquered it, we had the trail to ourselves and could set our race pace heading down to the desert floor and out into the dust. We started reeling in the guys that hadn’t taken Backdoor and Resolution on their first lap. We ran hard, passing a lot of guys, working our way through the big bumps and back around the mountain towards the ridge to the sand hill climb. There was traffic at the first line and another guy heading for the second one, but we were able to take a wide line around them and cut in to be the first on the climb. Once at the top of the climb we estimated we passed six cars in that area. We continued along the ridge, passing a few more cars, before dropping down to the lake bed and back to the main pit.
At main pit we got some fluids for hydration, filled up with fuel and headed out for the second lap. As we headed out around the mountain on our second lap towards Aftershock – our first rock trail, we passed Robby Gordon and Lance Clifford “fully getting it” along the trail with a flat tire. At the Z turn on top of Aftershock, we found more traffic and chose the bypass line to the left. We headed up the sand wash around towards Devils Slide and Hellsgate. Dropping down Devils Slide into Sunbonnet we stepped on the skinny pedal and made quick work of the trail then headed for Highway 19 and 20, targeting our planned stop at pit two where we would top off our fuel.
Leaving the pit we hurled ourselves towards Fissure Mountain, what an amazing overview of the entire valley. As we drop down from Fissure Mountain, we took a line down the sand hill into the second canyon, Sledgehammer, past the Mailbox and around towards Jackhammer. At the top of Jackhammer we called in on the radio and talked to our main pit crew, confirming our location and that our race was progressing well. Exiting Jackhammer we rocketed towards Chocolate Thunder. As we entered the Gate Keeper, we found that the trail had changed and we were having trouble on the normal line, so we backed off and took the alternate one on the left. Clearing the Gate Keeper it was smooth sailing to the top of the trail. Down the backside we headed to the next trail, Wrecking Ball. Up Wrecking Ball, down Claw Hammer, up Big Johnson and upper Big Johnson, and down Boulderdash, to this point we were running smooth, no problems. Back out to the desert we headed full speed, knowing main pit was not far now. As we left the main pit and passed Backdoor, we realized that we were now ahead of Shannon Campbell and leading the entire field. Across lake bed through the bumps into the next valley, we headed for Spooners. As we climbed Spooners, we pasted a few spectators all of them giving us thesign that we were in first place. We knew all we had to do was keep it together, maintain our current race pace, and we were on track for a KOH victory.
Clearing the last rocks on Spooners, we screamed towards Outer limits. Outer limits held many more spectators, all cheering us on, assuring us that we were in the lead. As we headed down the wash exiting Outer Limits, we headed for the lake bed picking up our speed to over 100 miles per hour. Now we are getting into the thick of the lap traffic. These guys didn’t seem to realize that they would already have the leaders coming around and didn’t respond well to the siren, so we had to employ liberal use of the chrome horn. Through all of the Hammers trails, we went for the second time. Still leading with no dust in sight behind us, we were starting to get excited. Through the desert we went, into the big cross grain bumps, the King Suspension soaking them up with ease. Coming up on our last trail, Elvis, we saw more lap traffic, John Webb was taking a harder line on the left in the boulders, trying to clear 4490 sitting in the Easy line on the right. I signaled to the guys out of Car 4490 what we were planning to do, the co-driver moved to the driver’s side of the vehicle, leading me to believe they thought my best bet was the high line to the right. As I proceeded up around their vehicle, our car hung up on a boulder – stopping her forward momentum and causing us to slide down and become entangled with their vehicle. Clawing for traction, we ended up driving up their front tire and gravity pushed us off the hillside across their hood. This is not what we intended to do, but it was the situation that played out. John Webb, just clearing the boulders, pulled right in front of us slowing our ascent up Elvis. He finally pulled over and let us out into the desert for our final dash to the finish line. Through the desert, we went speeds exceeding 75 miles an hour passing cars strewn along our path. Entering the infield and hitting the rollers we saw a huge group waiting for us. Camera men, our crew, and everybody excited to see us crossing the line. I couldn’t help myself from doing a few celebratory donuts in the infield. When the dust settled, we climbed out onto the roof of the car, waving the checkered flag jubilantly. What a day! What a race! We had finally done it! We had won the King of the Hammers! This race win could not have happened without the support of our Bomber Fabrication family:
The Dust Junkies
BFGoodrich Tires www.bfgoodrich.com
CBM Motorsports www.cbmmotorsports.com,
LAT Racing Oils www.latracingoils.com
Baja Designs www.bajadesigns.com
JE Reel Drivelines www.jereel.com
BTR Wheels www.btrwheels.com
Reid Racing www.reidracing.biz
Bulldog Winch www.bulldogwinch.com
Heavy Metal Concepts www.heavymetalconcepts.com .