2022 King of the Hammers: an unforgettable and unique week of racing

From January 28 to February 5, the 16th edition of the King of the Hammers was staged in Johnson Valley (Mojave desert in California). A week of racing, unique in the off-road world, with the most famous stars and stripes drivers of the various offroad disciplines who offered spectators in the Lakebed and those who followed the live streaming a unique show of its kind. The original Ultra4 race, and still without equal, melding the opposite disciplines of desert racing and rockcrawling. King of the Hammers (now named Race of Kings) is the hardest one-day off road race on the planet. Dan Fresh Wins again at the 4WP Every Man Challenge and Raul Gomez wins the Race of Kings becoming the ninth KING.

Photography by Paolo Baraldi

2022 king of the hammers

January 28, 2022 the gates have opened on the annual Progressive King of the Hammers Powered by Optima Batteries.  What started as a beer bet amongst a dozen friends in 2007 is now one of the biggest off-road events on the planet and one of the largest events held on public lands in the United States.


Tens of thousands of fans and over 500 teams gather on Means Dry Lake in the Southern California desert each year for eight days of intense racing and festivities on and around the punishing rock trails known as “The Hammers.” The names are unforgettable including Sledgehammer, Wrecking Ball, Full of Hate and Hell To Pay.  But even more unforgettable are the struggles and triumphs these teams experience in the attempt to tackle the infamous trails and reach the finish line.


Offering over a week’s worth of competition, the humble beginning of King of the Hammers was just one race through the desert and rocks of Johnson Valley.  Now, the races include off-road’s biggest names in desert trucks, UTVs, stock vehicles and of course, the unlimited Ultra4 cars (4400). Kicking off the week is the Toyo Desert Challenge Presented by Monster Energy featuring desert race trucks. The grand finale of King of the Hammers week is the Nitto Race of Kings on Saturday, February 5th – the race that started it all. For years the 4400 unlimited race was referred to as “King of the Hammers”,  but as this event has grown to encompass more than just that one race, it deserved its own title.

2022 king of the hammers

The Nitto Race of Kings pits the top, pre-qualified drivers in unlimited vehicles against each other on the same combination of desert terrain and rockcrawling trails several of the other races earlier in the week, but then ups the ante with a third lap comprised of even more difficult terrain.  Many try, but few succeed, with a finish rate under 50% being common in the past. Many of the vehicles are custom built by the drivers themselves, who are just as talented as fabricators, engineers, and welders as they are as drivers and co-drivers. Platforms include single seat and two seat, front engine and rear engine, solid axles and independent suspension, all vying against each other for victory.


Hammertown is the makeshift city built to support the races and fans - complete with street names, over 150 vendors, race pits, Jumbotrons for live viewing from the course, and live music at night.  King of the Hammers (KOH) has become a destination for gearheads from around the globe, with many spectators bringing their own UTVs and rockcrawling buggies to Johnson Valley to actively recreate between races.

Toyo Tires Desert Challenge for Limited Buggies Presented by Monster Energy

A tough racecourse tested drivers and race cars in the opening round of the 2022 Progressive King of the Hammers Powered by Optima Battery. 


Freezing temperatures, thick and low-hanging fog, and a heavy haze of dust hovered over Johnson Valley as the sun rose to reveal Hammertown in all its frantic glory on Day 1 of the 2022 Toyo Tires Desert Challenge presented by Monster Energy. Those not intimately familiar with the Mojave Desert of Southern California may be unable to imagine the desert a cold place, but as Polaris UTV racer Wayne Matlock (9th overall finisher and 2nd B2 Class finisher) would tell us later that day about his wife Kristin’s on-track troubles, “We use a special fluid in the engine that froze solid the night before the race. We tried to defrost it but couldn’t free it up before she had to start. Her engine overheated and blew a head gasket.”         


The 2022 Toyo Tires Desert Challenge  for Limited Buggies is the official starting event of the 2022 Progressive King of the Hammers Week Powered by Optima Batteries held in the legendary 96,000-acre Johnson Valley off-road playground. Now in its fourth year as a part of the King of the Hammers week of desert and rock racing, the Desert Challenge is a two-day event that has grown by leaps and bounds to accommodate the continued growth in the vehicle classes that have been added to the ever-expanding venue.


What began as a single-day, invite-only race for unlimited trucks (T1) has blown up to include an opening day featuring Class 10, Class 16, Class 12, Class 5 Unlimited, stock and modified UTVs with naturally aspirated and turbo engines, and TrophyLite spec trucks powered by sealed EcoTech engines. They all ran the same course at the same time, competing against each other for class victories as well as for the overall race win.


The racing format for the 2022 Desert Challenge is not like your usual desert off-road race. The determination of starting order is held the morning of the race, as opposed to a day (or days) before the event. President of Ultra4 Racing and mastermind of the King of the Hammers, Dave Cole, came up with the idea to make things a bit more interesting and competitive.

2022 king of the hammers desert challenge limited

Teams competed in what’s referred to as a “prologue” of a 33-mile loop section of the 201-mile overall racecourse to determine starting order and had only a matter of minutes to get ready for the main race. In the past, regardless of their qualifying time, UTVs started behind the buggies. For the 2022 event, prologue results dictated overall starting order. In addition, a competitor’s prologue time would be added to their overall race elapsed time.


Chase Warren scored the best prologue time, with fellow Class 10 competitor Matt Winslow second on the grid. Mitch Guthrie Jr. nailed the third start spot in his B2 class, new Polaris RZR Pro R4 AWD UTV. Fourth fastest was Ezra Ebberts in another Class 10 car. Peter Hajas started fifth off the line for Day 1 of the Desert Challenge. Now a four-wheel-drive UTV would start with only two buggies in between it and an overall win in the day’s race.


The racecourse was tough. Wayne Matlock said, “Dave (Cole) threw a little bit of everything at us with this racecourse.” Seventh-place overall finisher Ezra Ebberts (Class 10 #1077 with an ET of 4:37:06:968) called it, “Gnarly, there’s no other way to put it." Days of open pre-running by buggies, trucks, and UTVs had torn it up, but a rough and tumble racecourse was not the only hazard to contend with.

2022 king of the hammers desert challenge limited
Chase Warren

The top three overall finishers were Chase Warren (#1088 Class 10), Mitch Guthrie Jr. (#2911 Polaris UTV “B2”), and Brady Wisdom (#1032 Class 10). Austin Weiland (#2954 UTV Pro) was 10th overall and first in UTV Pro. Travis Chase (#5095) scored big with an 11th overall and first in Class 5 Unlimited. Cameron Steel (#16) was 17th overall and first in TrophyLite trucks driving a Ford Ranger pickup. Oscar Indreland came in 28th overall for a first in UTV Stock Turbo, and 48th overall of the 64 vehicles that finished the race.             


However, before many had even finished a lap, there was carnage on course. Starting side-by-side, two at a time, there were some “near incidents” just getting out of the short course start section and on onto the real racecourse. Once on the course, the perils began to multiply. Rolled, broken, and stuck cars were not an uncommon sight.


Mitch Guthrie Jr. (#2911) with his dad Mitch Sr. (a multi-year winner in the KOH UTV races going back as far back as 2008) as co-driver took second place overall and first UTV Pro. Mitch Guthrie Jr. said, “Right off the start we had a buggy stuck on the hill and had to get around him. It held up awesome, but man, that course was brutal, and every single lap was getting worse and worse.”


2022 Toyo Tires Desert Challenge for Limited Buggies champ Chase Warren was on cloud nine when he reached the podium after the race. Chase told us, “We came across a problem coming right out of Hammertown. A couple of cars got stuck on Heartbreak Hill. There were two cars flipped over and stuck at the top of Heartbreak Hill. We had to take the bypass.” Chase kept his cool and made it out. “It was smooth going from there,” Chase explained. When asked what the highlights of his race day  were, Chase responded, “Winning the prologue and winning the race. We were given the opportunity to get out here and do this, and it was just an amazing race.”

Baja Jerky Class 11 Showdown presented by EMPi

2022 king of the hammers baja jerky class 11
Blake Wilkey

After the sun went down on Saturday January 29th, the 2022 Baja Jerky Class 11 Showdown presented by EMPi lit up the 2022 King of the Hammers short course start/finish area. The full-bodied Class 11 Volkswagen Bug is one of genesis vehicles of off-road racing and has remained a popular and iconic racing class for many decades. This year’s Class 11 Showdown began with a 25-car field circling the course behind a pace truck for a rolling start. When the green flag dropped, the Class 11 race was on!


Watching the 2022 Baja Jerky Class 11 Showdown presented by EMPi was like seeing a merry-go-round made up of circling angry bees. There was lots of noise and plenty of action. Among the 25 competitors in the very competitive field were well-known drivers from diverse off-road racing disciplines such as multi-year King of the Hammers champion Shannon Campbell and Baja-racing ace Larry Roeseler. Many of the competitors were from Mexico and this was their first race in the U.S.


The 10-lap Baja Jerky Class 11 Showdown presented by EMPi was filled with paint-swapping side-by-side battles through the turns and plenty of bumper-to-bumper racing. While Roberto Robles (#1100) and Cisco Bio (#1118) traded second and third position a few times during the race, last year’s event winner Blake Wilkey (#1157) led the pack from green to checkered and took home the $11,940 purse. Wilkey said, “That last corner was my favorite because you could hold it down all the way through. My trick is to never lift.”

Toyo Tires Desert Challenge for Unlimited Trucks and Buggies Presented by Monster Energy

The second day of the 2022 Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Presented by Monster Energy saw an attrition rate of nearly half the T1, T2, and B1 race cars that took on the extremely treacherous racecourse. That’s not surprising for an event held on a racecourse designed for the Progressive 2022 King of the Hammers Week of desert off-road competition. Drivers expected the course to be tough. What they didn’t expect was just how rough it could be. Nobody expected it to take out so many race cars and trucks before they could finish the race.

2022 king of the hammers desert challenge unlimited

Bryce Menzies won this race overall in 2020 and 2021. After his qualifying run in the prologue the morning of the 2022 Toyo Tires Desert Challenge presented by Monster Energy, Bryce told us, “I’ve never driven that hard for a solid half-hour. It was intense.” He knew that if he wasn’t out first, he would end up in somebody’s dust trail most of the day. Bryce nailed the pole position for the 2022 Desert Challenge.   


Much of the talk leading up to the race was about the re-match between Bryce Menzies and Luke McMillin in the T1 Class. Both are prior winners. Bryce has won the event twice already. Luke won the inaugural year of the Toyo Tires event in 2019 and got a second overall in 2020. It would be three-peat for Bryce and a sweet victory for Luke if he could win again.  


Within the first few miles of Luke’s 2022 prologue, the racecourse hit him with a gut-punch. Luke crashed into a rock obscured by the dust of a slower competitor when the two got tangled up in the saddle of a mean hill known as Heartbreak. It took long time to extricate his truck, and some damage had been done, but officials decided to allow him a prologue restart. Luke cracked the whip and qualified fourth on the starting grid.


The carnage had begun early, and Heartbreak would earn its name again and again during this race. Terry Householder rolled his T1 at Heartbreak but was later able to get going again, and Victor Munoz’ T2 spec truck broke down at Heartbreak.


Bryce Menzies and Kyle Jergensen were running close and leading the race while a small group of other hot shoes were not far behind them. Bryce and his co-driver were under the truck when Jergensen passed him. A driveshaft and link bar were laying in the sand beside the truck. They did what they could with what they had, and got it going again, but it wasn’t long before Menzies called it a day.


The rough and rocky racecourse continued its treacherous work. Justin Lofton was down early in the race with a busted transmission. Pecoy went into the main pits and was out of the race with steering issues about halfway through the race. Cameron Steele was stopped at Mile 2, and it looked like he was out of the race.


By the end of the second lap, Jergensen was first T1 on the road and first overall on elapsed time. Christopher Polvoorde was the T2 leader and second overall, and Dustin Grabowski was second in T2 Class. The B1 leader and eventual class winner was the #103 car with RJ Anderson and Adam Lunn making it happen. Luke McMillin was having some problems with a drive-by-wire system for the gas pedal. It got fixed and McMillin was running strong and in second T1 spot. However, he was nine minutes behind Jergensen at the beginning of the third and final lap of the race.

2022 king of the hammers desert challenge unlimited
Kyle Jergensen

Luke McMillin was third overall, second in T1, and happy to have finished the race. He was especially happy to be on the podium. “This is my 13th consecutive race standing on the podium. I was afraid this race was going to break the streak, but here we are.”


Second overall and first T2 across the finish line was 21-year-old Christopher Polvoorde. “I'm pumped to be second overall. This is one heck of a race. We caught a corner on the backside of the course, went up and left, and we saw sky, dirt, sky, dirt. Somehow, we landed on all four tires. Those last 20 miles (into the finish line) were nerve-racking. I was shaking, and it felt like it took four hours.”


That last lap didn’t shuffle the deck much and when the checkered flag flew, it was Jergensen who saw it first. “This was a rough race for just about every team, but I was never worried after we took the lead. We had a 10-minute minute lead at one point and really went into cruise control. We made sure we did everything to get where we are right now. We never missed a beat, and the crew was perfect.” Kyle Jergensen and his co-driver Shawn Shanks are the first place T1 and the overall winners of the 2022 Toyo Tires Desert Challenge presented by Monster Energy.

Holley EFi Shootout Presented by King Shocks & Action Sports Canopies

Arguably as action-packed as KOH itself, people come early in the week to Hammertown just to watch the Holley EFi Shootout.  On Monday night, rigs ranging from homebuilt buggies to high horsepower rock bouncers from Southern Rock Racing Series (SRRS) come to compete for the fastest time up a huge vertical rock ledge. Originally an impromptu gathering at the Backdoor obstacle, the Shootout will be held this year on the qualifying course to ensure that there is not a bad seat in the house. There are stadium lights and announcers with thousands of people watching, cheering, and heckling the drivers.

Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship Presented by Progressive Insurance - Kyle Chaney Tops All Can-Am Podium

You might expect the Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship Presented by Progressive Insurance to be dominated by rockcrawlers from the Southwest and for years that was in fact the case.  This year though, the podium was filled with drivers from Ohio, Texas, and Illinois. For the second year in a row, Kyle Chaney was at the top of that podium.  Cheney has finished on the podium in all three previous KOH UTV races he has entered, despite no background in rockcrawling.  “I grew up racing in the woods, and you have to be very precise.” he revealed. “The more technical the better.”  Chaney started seventh off the line and worked his way to the front of the pack by the end of the first lap, which consisted of 86 miles through the desert of Johnson Valley OHV Area.  “We wanted to be the first to the rocks,” Chaney explained, referring to the second lap that included 70 miles through 18 rock strewn canyons. “We had to winch once in Sledgehammer but otherwise it was a pretty flawless day.” 

2022 king of the hammers UTV race
Kyle Chaney

Chaney led an all Can-Am podium that was rounded out by 2020 UTV winner Hunter Miller of Texas and Paul Wolff of Illinois. Miller started fourth and rolled going down the Daydreams Trail, but was able to regain his composure to finish in four hours and 46 minutes, twenty minutes behind Chaney.  Wolff finished 12 minutes behind Miller in his first entry in the UTV Hammers Championship.  This, following Wolff’s victory in Stage 1 of the Holley EFI Shootout in his Can-Am based rock bouncer.  Wolff qualified 11th for the UTV race, and third for the Nitto Race of Kings on Saturday.  Chaney, Miller, and Wolff are all racing in the 4400 Unlimited race, and deferred from racing in the Can-Am UTV Grudge Match as a result.

New for 2022, the Can-Am UTV Grudge Match put the top twenty finishers against each other for four laps around the 1.3-mile qualifying course.  $10,000 was on the line, with only the driver and co-driver allowed to work on their vehicles in the hour prior to the start of the Grudge Match.  The rolling start inverted the field with the 20th finisher starting first. With some competitors bowing out, the field went down to the 26th finisher.  Brian Deegan had a long day in the UTV King of the Hammers, running out of gas on Lap 1 and requiring his co-driver Terry Madden to run to the pit to retrieve fuel. Deegan put his short course skills to good use in the Grudge Match, leading flag to flag to take home the cash.

2022 king of the hammers UTV grudge match
2022 king of the hammers UTV grudge match
Brian Deegan an Terry Madden

2022 was also the first year there were multiple classes in the Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship Presented by Progressive Insurance, due to the overwhelming popularity of the race.  RJ Anderson came in fourth overall and first in the UTV Stock Turbo Class in his Polaris RZR, his second victory for the week after winning the B1 class in the Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Presented by Monster Energy.  Short course racer CJ Greaves came in sixth overall and first in UTV Open Class in his Polaris RZR Turbo R. Bailey Cole came in 13th overall and first in the UTV Stock NA Class in his Honda Talon. 


The UTV race has arguably the deepest talent pool in a week of events full of talented racers.  In addition to dedicated UTV racers such as Kyle Chaney and Hunter Miller, 4400 stars Shannon Campbell and Bryan Crofts mixed it up with desert racers Cameron Steele and Bryce Menzies, and motocross legend Jeremy McGrath.  To challenge this talented roster, Ultra4 Promoter Dave Cole had the UTVs run the same first two laps as the Nitto Race of Kings Powered by Optima Batteries scheduled this Saturday, February 5th (which runs an additional lap through the most challenging rock canyons). 


While Chaney finished the course in only four hours and 26 minutes, under 30 of the 122 entries finish the race in the nine-hour time limit.  By contrast, in 2013 there were only 35 entries in the UTV King of the Hammers, and only three of those vehicles reached the checked flag.

Terry's run to glory at the UTV Race

2022 king of the hammers UTV race
Terry L Madden

Every year Terry L. Madden gives us great emotions by putting his heart and his passion for this sport before everything. This year in the UTV race Terry having hot footed it up a very steep hill, 3 miles, and running in to Pit1, ratchet-strapping a massive part filled fuel tank to his back... and scorching 3 miles back to get them back in the race.

Dan Fresh Wins Again at the 4WP Every Man Challenge

The 4WP Every Man Challenge (EMC) consists of four distinct classes but only one overall winner. For years, drivers in the Yukon Gear and Axle Modified Class (4500) and Branik Motorsports Legends Class (4800) have battled for the overall win.


The punishing 151-mile course consisted of whooped out roads and high-speed lakebeds on the first lap, and 18 boulder strewn canyons on the second lap. Only 34 of the 135 vehicles entries reached the finish line within the ten-hour time limit on the most challenging EMC course to date.


Dan Fresh has traditionally led the charge in the Modified Class, winning overall in 2018 and finishing first in 4500 the past two years but being bested by drivers from the Legends Class. This year he piloted a Bomber Fabrication buggy in the Legends Class and regained his title of overall winner of the EMC race. “We were ready for this race quite honestly,” Fresh confessed at the finish line. “Mike Johnson and the whole crew have been putting in late nights for the last few weeks to get us here.”

2022 king of the hammers UTV every man challenge
Dan Fresh

Even with different vehicle specifications, the Branik Motorsports Legends and Yukon Gear and Axle Modified vehicles are closely matched in capabilities and battle each year for the overall win. Legends vehicles must use a single shock per corner, a front mounted engine, and have two seats. Modified vehicles are allowed two shocks per corner but must retain mechanical steering rather than the full hydraulic steering that is common in the Legends Class. Both classes compete on 37-inch DOT approved tires. The Spidertrax Stock Class is even more restrictive, allowing for minimal modifications beyond the addition of safety equipment and running through the daunting course on only 35-inch-tall DOT approved tires.


Toby Stacy came in second in the 4800 Class (and overall) in his very first attempt racing in King of the Hammers. Stacy purchased a well sorted out Trent Fab buggy from Brett Harrell and let his skills behind the wheel take care of the rest. “I hadn’t even seen Sledgehammer before today,” Stacy confessed at the finish line. “I’ve been wheeling a long time, I’ve been rockcrawling a long time, and finally I went over one hundred in the desert.” Last year’s winner Chayse Caprara rounded out the podium in his Bomber Fabrication car. After rolling in qualifying, Caprara had to start in the back of the pack. He passed 102 competitors to threaten for the overall win on corrected time, but finished two minutes behind Stacy and 32 minutes behind Fresh on corrected time. Tomorrow Caprara will race in the Nitto Race of Kings Powered by Optima Batteries in the Bomber Fabrication buggy that Randy Slawson used to win last year’s King of the Hammers.

2022 king of the hammers UTV every man challenge
John Matthews

In the Yukon Axle and Gear 4500 Class, longtime racer John Matthews got his first victory at King of the Hammers. “This is our sixth KOH, and the eleventh year this Jeep has raced,” Matthews shared. Last year he finished 8th in class and 28th overall, and in 2020 he finished 5th in class and 15th overall.  Joe Gatlin finished second in 4500 in his first entry in the Every Man Challenge. “I have been coming here for years, but this is my first time behind the wheel,” Gatlin explained.  “All we wanted to do was finish, getting on the podium is a bonus.” Third place went to Kenneth Goodall, who led the class for much of the race, but tire issues in Wrecking Ball allowed Matthews and Gatlin get by him and cost valuable time.

2022 king of the hammers UTV every man challenge
Vaughn Gittin

The Spidertrax Stock Class (4600) was dominated by Ford, with Broncos sweeping the podium. Team Fun Haver took the class win and actually beat all the, with current Ultra4 Racing champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. driving the first lap through the desert and two-time KOH winner Loren Healy driving the second lap through the rocks. “Originally Vaughn and I planned to co-drive for each other but neither of us like to be in the passenger seat!” Healy joked at the finish line. “I’m so proud of this whole team, Ford Performance, Team Fun Haver, it is like a family,” Gittin added. Brad and Roger Lovell had qualified first in the 4600 class, but a punctured turbo hose early in the race cost them the lead on lap one. “We didn’t give up, we just fought our way back up to the front,” Brad Lovell exclaimed. Bailey Cole and Jason Scherer rounded out the podium in 4600 to complete the Bronco podium sweep. “We had a plan and we executed it perfectly,” Cole revealed after the race. “We just used the Bronco’s goat mode to get through whatever was in front of us.”

Kyle Seggelin was the only entry in the Dana-Spicer Holley EFI EV Class. While he wasn’t able to reach the finish line within the time limit, he is pioneering the future of electric-powered Ultra4 cars. Starting with Bailey Cole’s proven 4600 Class 4Runner as a platform, Seggelin added the motor and batteries from a Nissan Leaf to repower the 4Runner for the Every Man Challenge. The electric motor of the Leaf produced 107 horsepower and 187 ft-lbs of torque, comparable to the original 22RE engine. The Leaf motor also has an output shaft, allowing it to be mated to the factory Toyota transmission. When asked what advice he had for other racers aspiring to compete in the EV Class he said “Go for it! It's not as hard as you think. It's nuts and bolts make it happen.” Seggelin will be competing in the new Ultra4 Racing EV Spec class with the first race taking place in July 2022.

Nitto Race of Kings Powered by Optima Batteries - Raul Gomez Wins The World’s Hardest One Day Off-Road Race

The Nitto Race of Kings (formerly named King of the Hammers) has a reputation as the most difficult one-day off-road race in the world, pushing racer and machine to their breaking point, and beyond.  Attrition was as high as ever in 2022, with only 44 of the 101 competitors reaching the finish line within the 14-hour time limit.  “This race was rough, but I don't think it should be easy,” Jason Scherer said after crossing the finish line. “This is a challenge and I don't want the Hammers to be easy. I want you to earn it. I'm glad that it's the way it is.” There were numerous lead changes, mechanical carnage, and high drama as the race unfolded over 227 miles of unforgiving terrain in Johnson Valley, one of the largest Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) area in the United States. In the end, Raul Gomez took home a $67,000 pay check and joined the elite ranks of King of the Hammers winners. 


This year’s weeklong event was biggest in its history, and as a result an extra $100,000 was added across all of the race purses for a total prize purse of over $630,000. The prize purse for Nitto Race of Kings alone was $143,500.


The Nitto Race of Kings Powered by Optima Batteries is the grand finale of nine days of racing and live music in Johnson Valley for King of the Hammers in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans.  Millions more online viewers tune in each day for unparalleled life coverage direct from the course. The week started with the Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Presented by Monster Energy, the Baja Jerky Class 11 Showdown Presented by EMPI, the Holley EFi Shootout Presented by King Shocks and Action Sports Canopies.  From there, three days of qualifying led into the Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship Presented by Progressive, the 4WP Every Man Challenge, and the Nitto Race of Kings Powered by Optima Batteries.  King of the Hammers races combine punishing desert terrain and the huge boulders of the notorious Hammer trails.  The Race of Kings 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 Veto and Nightmare.

2022 king of the hammers race of kings

Gomez Brothers Racing has come so close to winning King of the Hammers so many times.  It was not a matter of if, but when.  And not just a matter of when, but which Gomez. Raul, his brothers Marcos and JP, and his son Darian have been fan favorites for years for their no-holds-barred driving style. While popular with fans, that go for broke driving style often left them short of the win. Last year JP finished second and Raul finished third at King of the Hammers.  The year before, Marcos was leading the race with just a few miles to go before breaking an a-arm on his suspension.


Raul Gomez piloted a brand-new UFO Fabrication buggy with only 20 miles on it prior to the race.  Normally the lack of testing would be a detriment, but it didn’t deter Raul. His backup plan was to compete in his race-legal prerunner, but when the new buggy arrived on the lakebed, Raul let car builder Joe Thompson drive the extra buggy in the race. Thompson, whose UFO Fabrication shop has built all of the Gomez Brothers Racing buggies, made the most of the opportunity with a 14th place finish.

2022 king of the hammers race of kings
Raul Gomez

Three-time winner Jason Scherer and his co-driver Jason Berger naturally wanted the win, but were still pleased with their second-place finish in their Ford Bronco. “I think this was the most fun I've ever had racing,” Scherer revealed. “It's always hard to come in second and say it was the best race you ever had, but that was real racing out there.” Scherer started on the first row next to Bryan Croft and was leading for the first half of the race before Raul Gomez passed him at Race Mile 134. Gomez ended up finishing the race in just under seven hours, fifteen minutes ahead of Scherer.

2022 king of the hammers race of kings
Jason Scherer

2020 KOH winner Josh Blyler of Big B Motorsports rounded out the podium in his Miller Motorsports Jeep. “We had a great day, but I feel really bad for my dad,” Blyler added.  “He was kicking our ass the whole day until we found him broke down out in the desert. That sucks, I really wanted him to kill it.”  Father and son Rusty and Josh Blyler qualified 20th and 21st, starting the race side-by-side.  On the subject of side-by-sides, Cody Miller made history as the first UTV driver to finish in the top 10 in the unlimited Race of Kings in his Can-Am Maverick X3, besting Kyle Chaney’s 11th place finish from last year. “We had a clean day, the course is just that hard,” Miller confessed at the finish line.

2022 king of the hammers race of kings
Josh Blyler

King of the Hammers Past Winners

2021- Randy Slawson and Dustin Emick

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