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.
KOH Draws Big Names From Other
KOH is attracting drivers from other disciplines of motorsports. For example, this year, go-fast off-road racers Rob MacCachren, Rick D. Johnson, and Greg Adler competed. Motocross legend and "General" of the Metal Mulisha, Brian Deegan (pictured), also drove for part of the race. The car he was scheduled to drive had flywheel problems prior to the race that damaged the car's transmission. He ended up driving Cottin Rodd's rig for the first leg of the race. We caught up with Deegan after his first KOH experience, and he had this to say, "I've never been rockcrawling, never done anything like it. I was like, 'I have to do this.' It was such a challenge." Indeed it is.
Who is Loren Healy?
Don't know KOH winner Loren Healy? Here's what you need to know and a couple things you don't.
Family: Wife, Savanah and daughters, Saylor (4) and Analyse (2)
Hometown: Farmington, New Mexico
Occupation: Oil and gas industry
Wheeling experience: 10 years
First 4x4: International Scout Traveler
Current daily driver: 2006 Chevy Silverado 2500 4x4
If I could go wheeling right now, I'd go: "To the Rubicon."
Race rig: Jimmy's 4x4-built with TurnKey LS2, built TH 400, Stak two-speed, spooled Dana 60s, 39-inch BFGs
Most challenging section of the KOH course: "Anywhere in the rocks. I love going fast in the desert, and the technical aspect of the boulders is what challenges me."
Last movie watched: "It's been such a long time since I watched a movie, I can't tell ya." Last book read: "Some book in college."
In his CD player: "George Strait" How it feels to be the King of the Hammers: "Great! I'm still really in disbelief. It's definitely an amazing feeling."
|2010 Griffin King of|
|the Hammers Top Ten Finishers|
If you'd like more info on King of the Hammers, visit their website at kingofthehammers.com.