King of the Hammers

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King of the Hammers 2019

King of the Hammers is an off-road race that combines desert racing and rock crawling. This race is held in February on Means Dry Lake at Johnson Valley, California United States.[1] The race is broadcast live on the Internet at each year.[2] King of The Hammers race week has expanded from one race, Nitto[3] King of The Hammers, held each year on Friday, to a series of 5 races held throughout the week. The races include Can AM UTV Race on Sunday, The Every Man Challenge Race on Wednesday, The Toyo Desert Invitational on Thursday [4] (Unlimited Trophy Trucks), and a new ULTRA4 vs. Rock Bouncer shootout held on Monday night of race week.[5]

About the Event[edit]

There are tens of thousands of spectators who come out to watch King of the Hammers, they all gather at Johnson Valley, a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area near Yucca Valley. For the week (which happens to be nine days long), the Means Dry Lake bed turns into what the spectators call Hammertown. There are more than 400 teams and 60,000 spectators for this event.[6] Each day there is a new race: dirt bikes, quads, Side by Side or UTVs (Utility Task Vehicle), anyone with a four wheel drive vehicle and the main event Ultra4. The dates for King of the Hammers in 2019 are February 1 through the 9th.


The King of the Hammers was founded by Jeff Knoll[7] and Dave Cole in 2007. Jeff and Dave were in a bar and they planned this race on a napkin.[8] The founders decided that there should be a trial run with a few good guys and a chance to have some fun.[8] There were only 12 teams at this first non-spectator invitational race. They are referred to as the OG13. The OG13 are always invited back to race year after year. All past winners, or Kings, are also invited year after year.[9] The first official race was in 2008 and it was still a non-spectator race. There were approximately 50 drivers in the first official race.[8] Race teams started at 30 second intervals from Means Dry Lake bed and navigated through the desert on a 50-60 mile set race course to their first rock course.

Ultra 4 Racing, the Ultimate Desert Race.


In 2014 Mopar brought their new 5.7 liter engine out to the races. King of the Hammers 2014 was a proving ground for Mopar’s 5.7 liter Hemi engine.[10] The 5.7 crate engines that were provided are the off-road race version of the recently announced Scat Package performance upgrades for Mopar’s street performance cars.[10] King of the Hammers was a choice proving ground for the 5.7 because of how hard the race is and how much stress the engines would be under. The 5.7 is part of a heritage in Mopar of race built engines that has been around for a long time. The 5.7L crate engine is part of Mopar’s GEN II race line of engines that are built specifically to race, and more specifically to win the races.[10] For the 2014 KOH Nitto Tire returned again to be a sponsor at the race. In 2013 Nitto sponsored six competitors; in 2014 Nitto sponsored nine competitors.[11] Three of the nine entries that Nitto sponsored in 2014 were previous winners, “Nitto’s roster includes three former King of the Hammers champions, the 2012 winner Erik Miller, the 2010 winner Loren Healy and the 2009 winner Jason Scherer.[11] The nine entries that Nitto sponsored in the 2014 King of the Hammers ran the same tire. The Nitto sponsored drivers all ran Nitto Trail Grappler tires; the tire had great success in 2013 Nitto reported.[11]


In 2013 the United States Marines were supposed to take Johnson Valley, California away from off-roaders and turn the area into an expanded training facility. Through the work of California politicians the area called Johnson Valley will stay open to the off-road community. There will be changes made to the riding area, as the Marines did get a large portion of the land. The King of the Hammers course will have to be altered just slightly for 2015 and future King of the Hammers.[12] The compromise was what off-roaders needed in order to still visit their favorite places in Johnson Valley, the base expansion did not take away the most popular attractions on Johnson Valley. The compromise gave roughly 43,000 acres to Johnson Valley, 79,000 acres to the Marines and 53,000 of joint use land. The Marines can use that 53,000 acres for two 30-day periods every year, the rest of the time it will be for the off roaders use.[12] The off-road community will continue to benefit from this compromise even if part of their land was taken away. The community surrounding the Johnson Valley off-road area gains around $71 million a year from off roaders going to and from the area.[12] There was a petition put on the White House web site asking that the Marines not be given the land. One reason that was given was that it was fiscally irresponsible; that expanding such a large base would cost the tax payers for years to come. The Twenty Nine Palms Marine Base is the largest Marine base in the world; the petition gained 29,456 supporters however that was not enough to prevent the compromise from going through. The bill was introduced because the Marines needed the additional land for live-fire training in an area similar to where they will be actually fighting.[12] The compromise was decided upon in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).[13] There are no reports on the numbers by which the bill passed or how many revisions the bill had before it passed. The bill is H.R. 1676 and the bill is called “Johnson Valley National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area Establishment Act.”[14]

Race Vehicles And Rules[edit]

The race vehicles used at the King of the Hammers are known as Ultra 4 vehicles which are capable of speeds over 100 miles per hour for the desert sections, but still contain gear ratios of 100 to 1 or lower for technical rock crawling. This Ultra4 class is unlimited 4400, and every vehicle is custom fabricated by each team. Traditional design for the front drive-train is a straight axle design, but (IFS) or (Independent front suspension) is becoming a popular design for the high speeds achieved in the wide open plains of the desert. Most racers use highly modified engines that can have up to (800 hp). 40" tires are common and racers use beadlock wheels.[15]

Competitors start side-by-side, two vehicles every thirty seconds, and must complete the 165-mile course in fewer than 14 hours. Each team must pass through seven checkpoints and at all times while staying within one hundred feet of the centerline of the course. KOH is a no-chase-team race; repairs can only be done on the track by the racers or in the pit area.[16][17] A last chance qualifier takes place before the race on a two-mile course. 35-50 teams attempt to qualify for the big race.[18]


  • 2007: JR Reynolds and Randy Slawson
  • 2008: Shannon Campbell[19]
  • 2009: Jason Scherer and Jason Berger[20]
  • 2010: Loren Healy and Rodney Woody[21]
  • 2011: Shannon Campbell[22]
  • 2012: Erik Miller and Robert Ruggiero[23]
  • 2013: Randy Slawson and Michael Slawson[24]
  • 2014: Loren Healy and Casey Trujillo
  • 2015: Randy Slawson and Michael Slawson
  • 2016: Erik Miller[25]
  • 2017: Shannon Campbell
  • 2018: Jason Scherer[26]
  • 2019: Jason Scherer

(February 11, 2014 Tuesday 6:30 AM EST ). Chrysler Group: Mopar Takes on 'King of the Hammers'. India Automobile News, Retrieved from (February 11, 2014 Tuesday 6:30 AM EST ). Nitto Tire Returns for a Second Year as Presenting Sponsor of the Griffin King of the Hammers with Nine Sponsored Entries. India Automobile News, Retrieved from Yudson, C. (2015, February 1). King of the Hammers 2015 . Retrieved March 20, 2015, from Perry, T. (2014, May 9). Marines, off-roaders compromise over area near Twentynine Palms. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from marines-20140509-story.html Howell, P. (2013, December 13). Compromise Reached on Johnson Valley OHV Area. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from[permanent dead link] reached-on-johnson-valley-ohv-area/\ House Report 113-123 - JOHNSON VALLEY NATIONAL OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE RECREATION AREA ESTABLISHMENT ACT. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2015, from


  1. ^ Brubaker, Ken (1 July 2009). "King Of The Hammers 2009 Incredible!". Fourwheeler Magazine. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  2. ^ "King of The Hammers LIVE Coverage". ULTRA4 Racing. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  3. ^ Welch, Shannon. "Nitto is King of The Hammers Title Sponsor". Modern Tire Dealer. Modern Tire Dealer. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Unlimited Desert Truck Race Added to King of The Hammers Week". ULTRA4 Racing. 31 July 2018. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  5. ^ "2015 KOH Week Schedule Of Events". ULTRA4 Racing. 13 December 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2015-04-19. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Lasher, Mike (16 July 2011). "Jeff Knoll Joins ORBA Staff". Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  8. ^ a b c Carey, L. (2014, February 1). The Real Story Behind King of the Hammers - DrivingLine. Retrieved April 19, 2015, from
  9. ^ Clifford, Lance (25 Jan 2008). "King Of The Hammers 2008". Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  10. ^ a b c [(February 11, 2014 Tuesday 6:30 AM EST ). Chrysler Group: Mopar Takes on 'King of the Hammers'. India Automobile News, Retrieved from]
  11. ^ a b c [(February 11, 2014 Tuesday 6:30 AM EST ). Nitto Tire Returns for a Second Year as Presenting Sponsor of the Griffin King of the Hammers with Nine Sponsored Entries. India Automobile News, Retrieved from]
  12. ^ a b c d Perry, Tony (9 May 2014). "Marines, off-roaders compromise over area near Twentynine Palms" – via LA Times.
  13. ^ "Compromise Reached on Johnson Valley OHV Area - 4 Wheel Drive and Sport Utility". 13 December 2013.
  15. ^ Racing, Ultra 4 (1 Jan 2008). "King Of The Hammers RULEBOOK". Ultra4 Archived from the original on August 11, 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  16. ^ Collard, Chris (1 Feb 2009). "Hammer Down Racing in Johnson Valley, California". Offroad Archived from the original on 9 September 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ Producers, Pinned (20 Jan 2010). "2010 King of the Hammers / Pre-Race Teaser Video". Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  18. ^ Gonderman, Jason (April 2009). "2009 King Of The Hammers - Last Chance Qualifier". JP Magazine. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  19. ^ Sanchez, Tim (22 Feb 2008). "Rock Racer Shannon Campbell Crowned "King Of The Hammers!". Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  20. ^ "2009 King of the Hammers winner is: Jason Schere". 28 Feb 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  21. ^ Williams, Fred (May 2010). "King Of The Hammers 2010 Battle For The Crown". 4 Wheel Offroad Magazine. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  22. ^ Burns, Josh (11 Feb 2011). "Shannon Campbell Wins 2011 King of the Hammers". Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  23. ^ Newz, Dirt (11 Feb 2012). "The Crown Goes East As Erik Miller Wins the 2012 Griffin King of the Hammers". Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  24. ^ Newz, Dirt (10 Feb 2013). "2013 Griffin King of the Hammers Presented by Nitto Tire". Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  25. ^ Bourdon, Stuart (11 Feb 2016). "ERIK MILLER WINS 2016 KING OF THE HAMMERS DESERT RACE". Fourwheeler Network. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  26. ^

External links[edit]