2019 Nitto King of the Hammers Preview – race-deZert.com

2019 Nitto King of the Hammers Preview

2019 Nitto King of the Hammers Powered by Optima Batteries
Hammertown opens Friday, February 1st for the 13th Nitto King of the Hammers 

What started as a friendly bet amongst friends back in 2007 has exploded into one of the largest off-road events in the world.  Held at California’s Johnson Valley OHV Area the week of February 2nd through 8th, over 50,000 people show up for the “Mad Max meets Burning Man” event known as King of the Hammers (KOH).   The only thing bigger than the crowd is the purse; over $300,000 is on line this year across a variety of classes.  What is considered the toughest one-day off-road race is the grand finale in a week packed full of racing a variety of vehicle types ranging from UTVs, stock and modified 4x4s, T1 desert trucks, and Ultra4 (unlimited four-wheel drive) vehicles. One common denominator rules at KOH: the drive to innovate, push the limits, and leave it all on the table as each competitor strives to be King.  The event answers back by giving a platform for all to shine, from seasoned, well-funded teams to the lone fabricator spending sleepless nights creating his or her rig on a shoestring budget, just like the friends that started it all.

Attending KOH is a one-of-a-kind experience with a showcase of the newest off-road parts from a myriad of vendors, up-close access to the pits, racing action on the infamous Hammers trails, and the tribal vibe of Hammertown – the makeshift city built specifically for the week of racing.  For those who can’t make the pilgrimage to Means Dry Lake, join the extended family of over two million people by following the live coverage and participating in live chats all week long at ultra4racing.com/live.

Day-By-Day, Play-By-Play:

Saturday, February 1, 2019
Qualifying for Can Am UTV King of the Hammers presented by HCR 
For the third year, qualifying will determine the starting order for the Can-Am UTV Race presented by HCR.  This race has exploded in popularity, and UTVs are now the largest class at KOH with over 100 entries. Qualifying will start at 11 AM and conclude at 4 PM, with drivers situated in one hour blocks to allow them as much time as possible to prerun and prepare for the big race without having to wait in line for qualifying.  Some drivers are conservative, while others will go to broke to gain starting position. Note that qualifying for all the races besides the 4400 race during KOH week is optional, and teams can decline to qualify and take a rear start in their race.

Who To Watch-
Mitch Guthrie and Mitch Guthrie Jr- This father and son duo has dominated the KOH UTV race for years.  Will 2019 be another notch in their belt?
Johnny and CJ Greaves- This father and son duo are short course legends from Wisconsin who qualified first and second last year during their first visit to the Hammers
Shannon/Wayland/Bailey Campbell- In 2017, the Campbells squashed any concerns about spreading themselves too thin by finishing 1-2 in both the UTV race and 4400 race.
Casey Currie- Hot off an impressive 4th place Dakar finish and Baja 1000 win.
Casey Scherer- Factory-backed Can Am driver wants to prove that fast runs in the family.
Tracy Jordan- One of the original KOH competitors is back, this time in a UTV!

Sunday, February 2, 2019
Can Am UTV Race presented by HCR
The average Ultra4 car uses 40-inch tires.  The average UTV uses 29-inch tires, and they race on many of the same trails!  Few side-by-sides reach the finish line each year, but that hasn’t stopped the UTV class from exploding in popularity.  UTVs are now the biggest class at KOH, with big names from desert racing, short course, and Ultra4 classes mixing it up with racers who live and breathe UTVs 24/7 all year long.  Mitch Guthrie, Sr. has dominated the UTV race in the past, technically making him the most winning “King” at King of the Hammers.  Last year his son Mitch Jr. carried on the torch.

Past Winners- 
2018- Mitch Guthrie Jr.
2017- Wayland Campbell
2016- Blake Van De Loo
2015- Mitch Guthrie
2014- Mitch Guthrie
2013- Mitch Guthrie
2012- Mitch Guthrie
2011- Brandon Schueler
2010- Mitch Guthrie
2009- Mitch Guthrie

Monday, February 3, 2019
Qualifying for 4WP Every Man Challenge (EMC)
With the most entries of all the races during KOH week, strong qualifying is critical for the three classes in the 4WP Every Man Challenge (EMC). Starting order is mixed between the Yukon 4500 Modified and Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends classes, which have distinct rules but are closely matched in speeds and capabilities, followed by the Spidertrax 4600 Stock Class. Close competition makes starting order critical! Competitors in the EMC race against other vehicles in their class, but that is little consolation when stuck on the trail behind a vehicle in another class, making qualifying key. Last year Dan Fresh won the EMC in his 4500 Class Jeep, just edging out Casey Gilbert in his Erik Miller-chassis 4800 buggy by just six minutes.

Who To Watch-
Brad Lovell- Rockcrawling and short course champion is the epitome of the Legends class, running the same Ford Ranger buggy in Ultra4 for the past decade.
Jessi Combs- Host of The List: 1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die
Matt Howell- Current 4500 class champion wants a win in the EMC
Robby Gordon/Erik Miller- This dream team is racing a 2020 model Jeep Gladiator pickup that was built by Savvy Offroad for the 4600 class in only a month!
Jesse Haines- This talented fabricator will leave behind his moon buggy to pilot a Mahindra Roxor in the 4600 class.
Dawson Allington- A brain tumor may have slowed Dawson down, but it hasn’t kept him from competing at KOH with his father next to him as his navigator.

Monday Night, February 3, 2019
Holley EFI Shootout presented by KMC, King Shocks, and Action Sports Canopies
Arguably as entertaining to watch as KOH itself, people come early in the week to Hammertown just to watch the Shootout.  On Monday night, rigs ranging from homebuilt rock crawlers to bouncers from Southern Rock Racing Series (SRRS) come to compete for the fastest time up a huge vertical rock ledge.  It’s KOH’s unique version of drag racing, with 20 rock bouncers coming from the South to represent.  Originally an impromptu gathering at the Backdoor obstacle, the Shootout is now held closer to Hammertown to accommodate spectators and ease recovery efforts to keep the action moving.  There are stadium lights and announcers with thousands of people watching the course, cheering (and heckling) the drivers.

Who To Watch-

Ryan Webb- Fastest in the 2018 Shootout, Team Kryptonite Kustoms is back from Louisiana to defend his title again this year
Jack Porter- Porter will be driving Bobby Tanner’s famous “Screamin’ Blue” bouncer, which won the Shootout in 2015
Jesse Haines- Rockcrawling champion and accomplished fabricator, Haines will be competing in his Suzuki-powered buggy with 42-inch tires and rear steering
Tuesday, February 4, 2019
Qualifying for Nitto King of the Hammers presented by Optima Batteries
Rather than determining starting order at random, a short course near Hammertown is used to put the fastest vehicles up front on race day. The course contains all of the elements of KOH, just in a bite-sized package.  Live streaming of the biggest names takes place during the “Power Hour” at the end of the day, but the best seat in the house is right next to the qualifying course.

Who to watch-
Jason Scherer- Perennial fast qualifier not just at KOH, but nearly all Ultra4 events
Jordan Pelligrino- Son of GenRight’s Tony Pelligrino, debuting a new Triton Engineering IFS/IRS buggy
Paul Horschel- 2018’s fast qualifier, debuting new two seat car at KOH

Tom Wayes- Fan favorite for his all-out driving style, debuting a new Fishmouth Fabworks two seat car at KOH
Levi Shirley and Erik Miller- These two have more in common than just being fast, they are both new fathers!

Last Chance Qualifier
There are a variety of ways to pre-qualify for KOH, including past performance at the event and sanctioned Ultra4 races throughout the season.  These drivers qualify for starting position on race day, but there are others for whom the stakes are much higher.  The Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) provides an opportunity for entry to the top 25% of the LCQ field. Sounds impossible? Both Loren Healy and Randy Slawson have won KOH in the past after earning their spot in the big show through the LCQ.

Tuesday Night, Febuary, 4, 2019
Pit Crew Challenge Sponsored by Pro Eagle, Buggy Whips, Raceline, and Boxo Tools  
New for this year is the Pit Crew Challenge, which pits (no pun intended) teams against each other in a bracket-style competition to see who can change tires and fuel the fastest. If you aren’t on the lakebed yet to watch this in person, you will definitely want to follow the Pit Crew Challenge on the live show at ultra4racing.com/live.  All classes are represented with the fastest team from UTVs, T1 desert trucks, 4500, 4600, 4800, and 4400 going head to head for bragging rights and a long list of prizes from Pro Eagle, Buggy Whips, Raceline, and Boxo Tools.
Wednesday, February 5, 2019
4WP Every Man Challenge
The EMC contains three classes: the Yukon 4500 Modified Class, the Spidertrax 4600 Stock Class, and the Branik Motorsports 4800 Legends Class.  Legends is one of the fastest growing classes at KOH (second only to UTVs), with close competition at every race.  Each class has specific rules to ensure a level playing field, making the EMC a true drivers’ race.  This year starting order will mingle 4500s and 4800s, putting the fastest cars at the front of the field.
4500- Factory appearing body, partial frame, mechanical steering, two shocks per corner, 37-inch DOT approved tires.
4600- Factory engine, stock frame, full body, single shock, 35-inch tall DOT approved tires.
4800- Front engine, two seat, solid axle, single shock, 37-inch DOT approved tires.

Past winners- 
2018- Dan Fresh
2017- Brad and Roger Lovell
2016- Brad and Roger Lovell
2015- Brandon Currie
2014- John Currie
2013- John Currie and Gerald Lee
2012- John Currie and Gerald Lee

Thursday, February 7, 2019
Toyo Tire Desert Invitational Presented by Monster Energy
New for this year is the Desert Invitational. Desert racers have been looking for their own race at KOH for a while now, and Toyo Tires and Monster Energy put up a $125,00 purse to get the attention of the best drivers in desert racing. These trucks don’t have to worry about scaling the rocks of Johnson Valley, but starting position is a serious issue when contending with blinding dust. On the morning of Thursday, February 7th, T1 drivers will run a timed prologue one at a time to determine starting position for the main race later that day. Unlike most desert race qualifiers, rather than a two-mile short course this prologue will take place on a 40-mile loop comprised of actual race course. Teams will have very little time between the qualifier and main race to let their T1 trucks cool down and make any necessary repairs or changes before taking the green flag for the 240-mile race.

Who To Watch- 
Cameron Steel- Fresh off his victory at the Baja 1000, but Cameron sold his winning truck to Raul Gomez.
Andy McMillin- This third-generation racer has the best winning percentage of any driver in the Desert Invitational
Rob MacCachren- Desert racing, short course, Ultra4 —  MacCachren is arguably the best off-road driver of all time.
Bryce Menzies- His new 4WD truck has shown promise, will this be the venue for its first win?

Friday, February 8, 2019
Nitto King of the Hammers Powered By Optima Batteries
Friday is the big show, when the unlimited class competitors battle to be named King and take home a $100,000 pay out.  Your best bet at following the action is at Backdoor, Chocolate Thunder, or out at the rockcrawling mecca of Cougar Buttes. More interested in watching from the comfort of your camp chair?  Hammertown will have a Jumbotron with live cameras and announcers calling all the action. Teams also pit in Hammertown and carve their way through the infield short course, bringing the action right to the fans.  The same five racers have won KOH the past ten years, demonstrating that it takes a lot more than luck to be on the top step.  Will one of them win again this year, or will a new King ascend to the throne?

Past winners- 
2018- Jason Scherer and Jason Berger
2017- Shannon Campbell
2016- Erik Miller and Robert Ruggiero
2015- Randy Slawson and Michael Slawson
2014- Loren Healy and Casey Trujillo
2013- Randy Slawson and Michael Slawson
2012- Erik Miller and Robert Ruggiero
2011- Shannon Campbell
2010- Loren Healy and Rodney Woody
2009- Jason Scherer and Jason Berger
2008- Shannon Campbell
2007- JR Reynolds and Randy Slawson


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