You have heard it before: King of the Hammers is the most difficult one day off-road race in the world, pushing team and machine to their breaking point, and beyond. Attrition in 2021 was as high as ever, with only 37 of 84 competitors reaching the finish line within the 14-hour time limit. There were numerous lead changes, mechanical carnage, and drama as the race unfolded over 190 miles of unforgiving terrain in Johnson Valley, the largest Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) area in the United States. In the end, Randy Slawson and his cousin Dustin Emick edged out JP Gomez and Marcos Gomez to join Shannon Campbell and Jason Scherer as three-time winners of the event. For his efforts, Slawson took home a $65,000 pay check and a brand-new Ford Bronco. “My year begins and ends in February. It’s not in January, like everybody else’s,” Slawson explained. “This is the only thing that I live eat, breathe sleep, dream – King of the Hammers.”
While many of the top teams have adopted independent front suspension (IFS) for faster speeds in the desert, Slawson has stayed loyal to the Spidertrax solid axles under his Bomber Fabrication buggy. And unlike other forms of racing where the driver writes a check to buy a race car, Slawson crafted the buggy with his own hands, building not only his own winning car but Chayse Caprara’s Bomber that won the 4WP Every Man Challenge (EMC) the day prior. “The last time I had one of my customers win the Every Man Challenge I won the 4400 race the next day. I was like, just taking it as an omen,” Slawson revealed at the finish line. “And right then Jason Scherer rolled by, and he waved me over to his car, and he gave me a fist bump. He said, ‘you’re gonna win it this year.’”
Fast qualifier JP Gomez and his brother Raul Gomez rounded out the podium in their single-seat UFO Fabrication cars. “I don’t want to start on the pole again, it sucks!” JP joked after crossing the finish line. “It took me about a lap and a half to finally calm down. Just slowly catching up my pace. And then that’s how I went the whole rest of the day.” Raul stopped to assist Tom Wayes after Wayes suffered a violent rollover in the desert, valuing the safety of his rivals over his own success on the track. “When I pulled up, I turn my car off and I yelled for him to see if he was okay. And he didn’t say anything so then I radioed the pit and couldn’t get him out,” Raul Gomez recalled. “Then Cameron (Steele) and Wayne (Isrealsen) pulled up and Tom told us to keep racing.”
Bailey Cole finished in fourth place for the second year in a row, matching his finish on the prior day in the Every Man Challenge the day before. “We really stayed in the zone all day,” Cole shared. “We wanted to just go out and get the hard rocks out the first lap when the car was healthy so we did Backdoor on Lap One. And then we just continued our pace with the desert and we picked off probably ten cars in that desert loop, the car was handling great.” Drift racing superstar Vaughn Gittin Jr. finished in fifth place in his Ford Bronco buggy.
Gittin’s Ford teammates Jason Scherer and Loren Healy finished 9th and 13th respectively, with all three Ford Broncos racing taking the checkered flag. “This race is gonna have like a 70% attrition rate and three out of three Broncos finished,” Scherer exclaimed. “It’s like batting a thousand.” Scherer and desert racer Cameron Steele shared the lead early on in the race, but both had issues that pushed them back in the standings. Fuel management was an issue for not only Scherer but contender Wayland Campbell as well. Scherer’s navigator Jason Berger, known for his physical fitness, ran into the main pit to retrieve fuel, and Andrew McLaughlin pulled Campbell in to the pit. King of the Hammers is a “no chase” race, meaning that racers can help each other but can’t receive other assistance outside of the designated pit locations. Perhaps most amazing is that UTV winner Kyle Chaney and last year’s UTV winner Hunter Miller finished 11th and 12th overall in their Can-Am Maverick X3s against a field of unlimited cars with V8 engines and 40-inch-tall tires.
The OPTIMA Batteries King of the Hammers Presented by Lasernut is the grand finale of nine days of racing in Johnson Valley in front millions of online viewers watching unparalleled life coverage from the desert. The event started with the Toyo Desert Challenge Presented by Monster Energy with $285,000 up for grabs. The event then added rocks to the mix with the All Balls Racing King of the Motos, Can-Am UTV King of the Hammers Presented by PROGRESSIVE, and the 4WP Every Man Challenge. King of the Hammers races combine punishing desert terrain and huge boulders in the notorious Hammer trails. The unlimited 4400 class runs the same two laps as the UTV and EMC races, but ups the ante with a third lap adding even harder trails with ominous names such as King’s Graveyard and Hell to Pay.
Missed the action or want to watch it again? Replay the live broadcast shows at YouTube.com/ultra4racing.
2020- Josh Blyler and Jared Erdman
2019- Jason Scherer and Jason Berger
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