Stunning Growth, Great Racing, And A New King
HammerTown may not be on any California map, but for one week last February, it was a bustling city of about 25,000 souls located on and around Means Dry Lake in Johnson Valley, California. It looked and sounded like a city, but it was unlike any town in the U.S. You see, HammerTown was the name given to the massive conglomeration of tents and RVs that assembled for the 2010 Griffin King of the Hammers (KOH) race. And to us, this year's assemblage looked far bigger than last. HammerTown's populace was made up of race teams and spectators representing all walks of life. They had one thing in common however; they were gathered to see one of the greatest races in the world of off-highway racing.
What is KOH?
KOH is a weeklong event, held in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave Desert, that culminates with a one-day 135-mile race that melds high-speed desert racing and rockcrawling. And it's absolutely free to spectators. This year, KOH kicked off on a Sunday and concluded the following Saturday. During the weeklong extravaganza leading up to the race, there was a variety of things going on in HammerTown including seminars on land use, shock tuning, and lighting. Heck, they even had a GPS class. HammerTown proper is a collection tents (including the main 100x200-foot tent), vendors, and food booths that are ringed by a sea of RVs. This year, there were over 80 vendors on hand, representing everything from hardcore race and wheeling wares to R/C trucks.
Of course the main focus is on racing and on Tuesday and Wednesday competitors battled in the 4Wheel Parts Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) for one of 25 spots available in the 100-vehicle KOH race field. The other 75 rigs earned the right to race at qualifiers held throughout the year or they were chosen by the KOH organizers. Friday was race day and Saturday's schedule included the awards ceremony and the 4Wheel Parts Volunteer Clean Up Trail Ride.
Johnson Valley is unique, and a treasure for wheelers. It not only contains hundreds of miles of trails, but it's also home to the infamous "Hammers." The Hammers are some of the U.S.'s most challenging rock obstacles. The unique terrain of Johnson Valley provides KOH organizers a palette with which to create a racecourse that's a work of art. Or a nightmare, depending on whether you're watching or racing. For 2010, KOH organizers lengthened the course to 135 miles. As usual, the farther competitors went, the worse the obstacles became. It's important to note that the vehicles used for KOH are state-of-the-art off-highway machines, and many have been built and/or tuned exclusively for KOH. These machines are incredibly versatile and built like tanks.
A New King
This year, KOH crowned a new King: Loren Healy of Farmington, New Mexico. Healy made the trek to Johnson Valley not guaranteed a spot in Friday's race. He qualified in the LCQ and started 53rd on race day. He finished the race just 32 seconds ahead of Second-Place finisher Brad Lovell. "The race went great," Healy told us after the race. "The first, about 50 miles, we were just picking cars off left and right the whole time. We came back in here and got fuel, and then we hardly saw anybody else. We couldn't figure out why we weren't seeing anybody else, so we just kept running hard." We asked him how he felt and he said, "Great! I don't feel like I just drove 135 or whatever miles. I feel great! These cars are amazing. I'm not sore, not tired, not anything. I'd like to say thanks to Dave Cole and Jeff Knoll for all their work to make this event happen."
We're guessing Healy is pretty happy nowadays because not only is he the new King, he also walked away with some impressive winnings including $10,000 from King of the Hammers, $5,000 from BFGoodrich, $7,250 worth of products from Torchmate CNC Cutting Systems, and lots more. It's good to be the King.