Randy Slawson won his first Every Man Challenge at the King of the Hammers Presented title to go with his three Nitto Race of Kings wins. Slawson and his brand-new Bomber Fab 4800 truck proved formidable in the rocks. Slawson put on a masterclass in technical terrain driving as he slowly reeled in Rose. After making the pass late in the race, Slawson kept up his rapid pace to take the checkered flag first.
Photography by Paolo Baraldi, Story by KOH
The action and drama that the challenging and varied terrain of California’s Johnson Valley always produces came almost immediately after the green flag waved. Ken Fults qualified on the pole and was first off the line, but his car caught fire two miles into the race after an oil line failure, ending his hopes. The dramatic departure of Fults handed the lead to Brent Harrell, who was chased by Slawson and Woody Rose Jr. as they headed into the opening desert lap.
Behind the lead pack, even more drama developed as a massive bottleneck formed in Turkey Claw only four miles into the race. The traffic jam quickly grew to over 40 vehicles as more starters arrived on the scene. The importance of qualifying well was on vivid display as the front-runners that started up front and avoided the mess were able to form a sizeable gap.
Harrell ran strong in the lead position through the desert until his pace slowed with a damaged coilover. The suspension issues let Slawson slip by for first, closely followed by Rose for second. Throughout the fast-paced desert section, Rose shadowed Slawson, taking advantage of the dust-free conditions to run only seconds behind.
Rose made the pass for the lead in the main pit while Randy Slawson took over driving duties from his brother Mike. After the driver change, Randy suffered two tire punctures in quick succession. Carrying only one spare tire, Slawson had to limp for over 10 miles through the twisting rock trails on a flat tire before reaching a pit. The slower pace allowed Rose to stretch out his lead.
Slawson’s chances at victory appeared to be dashed as he was now 11 minutes behind Rose. However, Slawson and his brand-new Bomber Fab 4800 truck proved formidable in the rocks. Slawson put on a masterclass in technical terrain driving as he slowly reeled in Rose. After making the pass late in the race, Slawson kept up his rapid pace to take the checkered flag first.
“We had a fun day of wheeling in Johnson Valley. The track was awesome, the rocks were fun, the shocks were great and the tires were killer,” said Slawson after taking the overall and 4800 Branik Motorsports class wins. “We had such a great time. This new car took us the distance and I am really excited about it.”
Rose crossed the finish line in second, with Jeremy Jones completing the podium.
“It was a good day. We ran a good strong pace through everything and didn’t have any big hiccups, so that was a blessing,” said Rose. “The race course was really fun. Through the rocks, I just glided through almost everything, but Randy passed me when I got caught up and had to winch.”
The fight for the win in the 4500 Yukon Axle and Gear Modified class was equally as furious late in the race. A group of five racers were battling at the front so close to each other that they were almost indistinguishable on their trackers. Shad Kennedy crossed the finish line first, but the class win went to long-time-racer Duane Garretson on corrected time.
“It was pretty gnarly. It was a good course, and we had a lot of fun,” said Garretson. Steve Crawford rounded out the top three.
It was a battle of Ford Broncos in the 4600 Currie Enterprises Stock class. Bailey Cole quickly worked his way out of the early bottleneck on Turkey Claw and built a commanding lead. However, a broken CV shaft and power steering issues dramatically slowed his forward progress in the rocks. Loren Healy, driving another Bronco, was closing the gap late in the race. Cole had to winch multiple times and lost a passenger door along with completing the final miles without his co-driver, but eventually crossed the finish line for his first win at King of the Hammers. Healey took the checkered flag for second place 20 minutes later with Alex McNeil claiming third.
“I am on cloud nine right now and everything is awesome,” said Cole. “There is no more passenger door, but we got here. Thanks to everyone and to my co-driver who had to winch way too many times today and worked his ass off.”
Justin Miron was the top finisher from the Rookie Program, which helps mentor and educate racers who have never competed in any King of the Hammers competition.
“I feel amazing. I am super excited to finish,” said Miron. “King of the Hammers is such a wild event. We are from Michigan, and we have nothing like this. Our big goal was to come out and finish and we accomplished that.”