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Your Complete Guide to the 2018 King of the Hammers

Your Complete Guide to the 2018 King of the Hammers

Updated Feb. 6, 2018

Happy February, race fans!

Every year in this wonderful month of love, tens of thousands of spectators and more than 400 competitors descend upon Johnson Valley (a.k.a. Hammertown) for King of the Hammers (KOH). This week-long event includes five off-road races throughout the week, with the granddaddy of them all – the Nitto King of the Hammers – wrapping up the week on Friday. This race combines desert racing and rock crawling spanning 200 miles of grueling trails. It’s no wonder 40,000 people flood this otherwise deserted desert valley to witness all the havoc.

So, if you happen to find yourself in the middle of the California desert this week or maybe just happen to check out the live stream coverage, we’re about to breakdown everything you need to know before witnessing this one-of-a-kind event. Load up the RV, grab your bonfire hoodie and get ready for the world’s toughest one-day off-road race.

The Background

Conceived in 2007 on a napkin in a bar, the inaugural KOH was devised by two racers in search of bragging rights and a case of beer. Dave Cole, a championship rock crawler, and Jeff Knoll, a desert racer, sought to combine the best of both racing worlds and invited 12 pals to the middle of the California desert to race more than 35 miles with 12 checkpoints.

The first race was run in secret with no spectators or vendors – just a bunch of off-road/rock-crawling dudes having a bunch of fun. Ten years later, the race has grown into a full week of racing, with hundreds of competitors and tens of thousands of spectators.

The Race

Saturday, Feb. 3 kicked off racing with UTV/4600 qualifying and part one of the King of the Motos. Racing continues throughout the week leading up to the namesake King of the Hammers on Friday, Feb. 9. Competitors start side by side, with two vehicles leaving the start every 30 seconds.

Racers must complete the gnarly 200-mile desert/rock course and seven checkpoints in less than 14 hours, all while staying within 100 feet of the centerline of the course while stopping to rest. No chase cars are allowed, and any repairs must be done on the track by the racers or in the designated pit area. First one to cross the finish line encompassing all the above tasks is declared the winner and, subsequently, “King.”

The Competitors

What does it take to participate in the toughest one-day race on the planet?

First, you need a vehicle. Vehicles are unlimited four wheel drive and capable of competing in multiple racing disciplines (extreme rock crawling, high-speed desert racing, short course) termed “Ultra4 Unlimiteds.” Competitors typically compete in the Ultra 4 Series, but it is not a requirement. Past multi-time champs like Erik Miller are looking to take the checkered flag once again, but there will be a slew of newcomers hungry to take them down, or maybe at least just finish the grueling course. With only 17 out of the 129 cars finishing in previous years, carnage is sure to be witnessed.

The Spectators

If paying with cash only, having no cell service, scaling rocks to get a great view and leaving covered in dust isn’t enough to scare you off, the KOH provides an experience like no other. Tens of thousands of fans trek out each year for this “Burning Man meets Off-Road Racing” event, which some say resembles a scene from Mad Max. With no hotels nearby, the desert becomes flooded with RVs, campers and tents in this once-a-year resurrected city called Hammertown. And, with community bonfires held each night, you’re sure to leave with more friends than you came with.

And let’s not forget why all these enthusiasts trek out here: the racing. With highlighted spectator areas like the “Backdoor,” “Chocolate Thunder” and “The Hammers,” there are plenty of options for witnessing all of the KOH carnage.

Oil Recycling at This Year’s King of the Hammers

All visitors coming to Johnson Valley are encouraged to dispose of their motor and gear oils properly by visiting the BF Goodrich garage located just outside of Hammertown.

Stop by the AMSOIL booth inside Hammertown on AMSOIL Ave. for more information and to enter each day for a chance to win a free UTV oil change.

Don’t worry, it’s not too late to get your tickets to the toughest one-day off-road race on the planet. Spectator information can be found here. A complete schedule of events for this year’s KOH race can be found here.

Defending Champions of the King of the Hammers

Lovell: The Every Man Champions

Lovell brothers repeat at King of the Hammers.

As defending champions of the King of the Hammers Every Man Challenge, Team AMSOIL off-road racers Brad and Roger Lovell entered the 2017 event with high expectations. Qualifying eighth after a huge boulder dislodged and caused some struggle on a rocky climb, the brothers started the main event near the front of an enormous 130-car field.

“Our formula is to always run our own race and control what we can, ignore what we can’t,” said driver Brad. “We ran a brisk and consistent pace, but not fast enough to cause a lot of errors. Roger kept telling me that we can only go so fast in our car regardless of who we are racing, so I pushed hard but made no errors.”

Over the first 60 miles of desert terrain, the team gained several positions, but kept its focus on the front. When early race leader Bailey Cole fell victim to a broken axle shaft, the Lovells took the lead.

“I knew we would be fast once we got to the rocks, and everything was going great until we heard we had a 30-minute lead,” said Brad. “That type of thing gets to you in a strange way. We slowed to a conservative pre-run pace, but in a race like this, drama will find you.”

Bad luck struck on Wrecking Ball when a power-steering line burst, stopping the team dead in the water.

“My heart jumped in my throat when we lost steering,” said Brad. “For an instant I thought hope was lost, but we found the bad line and replaced it in less than 10 minutes. We throttled up the waterfall and while I knew that we ate into our buffer, we still had a strong lead.”

The only unscheduled stop was at the BF Goodrich pit for a topoff of AMSOIL Synthetic Tractor/Hydraulic Transmission Oil (ATH) in the steering reservoir before the brothers ran the last section to the finish.

“I kept thinking something little was going to go wrong and nab the win, so we took it real easy,” said Brad. “We came into traffic on Resolution right before the finish, and a broken car was blocking the drop off Backdoor. I didn’t want to take any chances, and those guys were sportsmen enough to move the car while in the middle of repairs. It is a bad day when you’re broken, and those guys have my respect.”

Once clear of the rocks, the Lovell brothers cruised to the victory in their first race of the season.

“We owe it to a solid team of guys who love racing, a dedicated family and the support of our sponsors through thick and thin,” said Brad. “There is no way we could race without the support of AMSOIL and all our other sponsors. We are proud to represent the best brands in off-road.”

Join us as a retailer or dealer.  AMSOIL is the Exclusive Official Oil of King of the Hammers. Featuring truck, motorcycle and UTV races, King of the Hammers brings together enthusiasts of all stripes, while drawing tens of thousands of fans to the live event and millions more watching online, increasing AMSOIL brand exposure and opening doors for sales outlets.