Six hours and 136 miles after he left the startline in Hammertown, former desert racing champion Dan Fresh and co-driver Mike Kim claimed their first Nitto King of the Hammer’s title during the Every Man Challenge (EMC). Fresh was just one of 12 vehicles who completed the course during the allotted time frame, an impressive feat considering 135 cars started the race.
“The course was just brutal,” said Fresh, who competed in the 4500 class. “When they send you across these rocks you’re like, ‘there is no way we’re getting through. It’s just not possible.’ I’m an off-roader, now that I’ve done this rock crawling thing, I can say these vehicles are amazing. They made an addict out of me.”
Finishing 2nd overall and winning the 4800 class was Casey Gilbert. 2018 was Gilbert’s seventh year competing in KOH. He drove the 4400 class for two years before switching to the Every Man Challenge. “The EMC is so special because fans can relate to the guys wheeling out here a little bit better,” said Gilbert. “They can relate their cars to yours and the fan base is cool. They hoot and holler when you go by, that’s important to me, that’s why we do it. It’s what makes it fun.”
Rounding out the podium in third place and winning the stock class was Jessi Combs, one of four female drivers in the comp. Combs is no stranger to KOH and has two previous class wins in other classes. “Racing in the stock class is a totally different animal. You’re really taking it back to the roots,” said Combs. “It’s a driver’s class, you have to be able to make your car go through and not break, that’s the hardest part.”
Defending champion Brad Lovell was looking to make it three wins in a row but suffered through mechanical problems. “We broke the front link leaving the main pit area,” said Lovell, “We had to remove it and run to the pit to weld it, and grab a new driveshaft. We put a hole in the oil pan that we patched with a zip tie and some JB weld. It cost us about an hour and a half.” Despite his setbacks, Brad Lovell still finished the race 4th place in 4800, and 7th place overall.
To see a few of the best photos we captured: King of the Hammers 2018 EMC
- Vehicles in the Every Man Challenge must fit into one of the three classifications. The Rubicon Express Modified Class (4500) require a factory appearing body, partial frame, mechanical steering, two shocks per corner, and 37-inch DOT approved tires. The Pro Comp Stock Class, (4600) must have a factory engine, stock frame, full body, single shock per wheel, and 35-inch tall DOT approved tires.The G2 Legends (4800) class is the most modified. The only requirements are a front engine, two seats, solid axle, single shock per wheel, and 37-inch DOT approved tires.
- The Nitto King of the Hammers course is in Johnson Valley, CA, and combines some of the toughest rock crawling trails in the world, with miles of open desert. 137 competitors from 17 states took the green flag at this year’s event. 4500, and 4800 classes ran a staggering 136 miles. Despite a slight respite for the Pro Comp Stock class; they still ran 124 miles of nasty rocks, ruts, sand and boulders.
- Amazingly, the top three on the podium were all from a different class.
- Dan Fresh was driving a very special truck built by Savvy Offroad. Dan’s Jeep bodied 4500 has won every time it has competed, but 2018 was the first time Dan has raced in KOH. It won the 4500 class four years straight from 2012-2015. Dan’s victory made it five.
- Casey Gilbert was driving an Eric Miller chassis. Gilbert might not be a household name, but that’s the nature of the Every Man Challenge.
- Jessie Combs was the 59th truck off the line in the morning, and worked all the way through the pack to take the stock class victory and 3rd overall.