King of the Hammers

King of the Hammers

King of the HammersBy John Harwood,

The week-long event known to off-road enthusiasts as The King of the Hammers took place in February. The 11th Annual Nitto Tires King of the Hammers Race Powered by Optima Batteries drew crowds estimated to be about 40,000 to Johnson Valley, California, the off-road mecca affectionately known as Hammer Town. The week-long event is a great time for families and four-wheeling friends to get together and enjoy some serious competition, and to take their own beasts out on some spectacular trails. The area is famous for some of the craziest trails, that look like they belong on another planet. Back Door being one of the nastiest of the bunch, with ten-foot cliffs to navigate over, and Chocolate Thunder that can swallow up the toughest race cars, never to be seen again.

The first race is for motorbikes. It is The King of the Motos. It is enough of a challenge to get through each of the three laps, but in keeping with the reputation of toughness of KOH, they designed the race to have the last lap run in darkness. It was a close race between Taylor Robert and Colton Haaker. Cody Webb was first across the finish line but he had missed a checkpoint earlier and was penalized, giving Haaker the win. Haaker’s win may have been due in part to his good sportsmanship earlier in the race. Taylor Robert went down in a hard crash and Haaker and a few other racers stayed with him until help arrived.

This was the first year for the legendary Campbell family racing with the Factory Polaris team, and they didn’t disappoint. The Campbells dominated the Can-Am KOH UTV race with Shannon winning by fifteen minutes over son Wayland. The youngest Campbell, Bailey, after having the early lead, had some issues and finished up fifteenth. Polaris Rzrs took the first five spots out of the seventy five UTV’s that started the race. The Campbells drive Rzr XP EMS1000 turbos.

King of the HammersThe Everyman Challenge, which made its debut in 2012, was designed to let teams on tighter budgets participate in the event. Tire sizes, number of shocks and type of suspension a vehicle can use are some of the limitations placed on teams to make it fun and competitive for participants and fans alike. The results of this challenge also had a family twist to the story. Brothers Brad and Roger Lovell finished the challenge first for the second year in a row.

The main event on Friday, turned into another battle between father and son, Shannon and Wayland Campbell. The two were back and forth for the lead many times in the run to the checkered flag. In the end, Wayland crossed the finish line first but it wasn’t enough to beat the old man who came flying across the line with only three tires to win overall on corrected time. Twenty-eight seconds was the difference. In so doing, Shannon Campbell won his third crown in the race’s history. He is the only King to have won three crowns. When asked about his third crown, Shannon didn’t seem to realize his accomplishment. His best memories of the race had been of the incredible battle with his son Wayland. The smile on his face after the race said everything as he can rest assured knowing he is still the top dog in the Campbell household.

It was another successful King of the Hammers sponsored by Nitto Tires and Powered by Optima Batteries. We witnessed history, crowning a Hammer King for the third time, and enjoyed a great week of family fun. Mark next February on your calendars folks! We’re going to California! Hammer Town.

Categories: Features, Off-Road Plus
Tags: Hammers