The Nitto King of the Hammers Powered by Optima Batteries keeps growing each year. In 2017, there were an estimated 50,000 spectators. Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road freelancer Harry Wagner has gone each year to watch the race and find features for us, since enthusiasts come from all over the country to put their own rigs to use in Johnson Valley. This year though, Wagner was more than just a spectator. He had the opportunity to navigate for Ben Swain in his Nitro Gear–sponsored Jimmy’s 4x4 buggy. Spoiler: They didn’t win.
The duo arrived 10 days before the race to prerun the course, marking cautions in their GPS as they familiarized themselves with the terrain. After qualifying midpack due to a broken front sway bar, the team had a lot of traffic to deal with on race day. They stuck to their game plan though and crossed the finish line over 10 hours after taking the green flag.
Michael Sproehnle put together this video documenting all the triple-digit lakebed crossings, winching, and pit stops that Swain and Wagner endured on their way to finishing the hardest off-road race in the world.