The King of the Hammers (KOH) has earned the reputation of being the toughest one-day off-road race in the world for 4x4s. Ultra-4 trucks have tackled the desert and rock-crawling race for 14 years, and UTVs have been racing for 12 years at the Johnson Valley OHV Area, which is northeast of Los Angeles. In both the Ultra-4 4400 class and UTV class, five drivers have dominated the King of the Hammers, but 2020 would bring new winners to Hammertown, a sprawling city that springs up every February on the Means Dry Lake. Tens of thousands of enthusiasts come to watch the off-road spectacle, and Polaris has ruled the KOH UTVs for 11 years.
The 2020 KOH UTV course consisted of two loops: the first 77-mile loop was mostly open desert before dropping into Back Door, a notorious 10-foot drop-off. The second 66-mile loop took the racers onto the 29 Palms marine base before hitting the infamous Hammers and then going down Back Door a second time. The Hammers are a series of boulder-infested ravines, and the 2020 course subjected racers to Aftershock, Fissure Mountain, Upper Sledgehammer, Jackhammer, Not Her Problem, Chocolate Thunder, Jack North, Wrecking Ball, Outer Limits, Spooners, Guacamole and Resolution before hitting Back Door. Of 131 UTV starters, only 33 completed both laps. Also notable, the UTVs were the biggest class at KOH.
NEW SHERIFFS IN HAMMERTOWN
Qualifying is relatively new to UTVs at the Hammers, and Can-Am put a huge effort into dethroning Polaris. Rock-crawling newcomers Cody and Hunter Miller set the fastest two times, and fellow Can-Am pilots Kyle Chaney, Dustin Jones, and Phil Blurton also had prime starting positions for the 143-mile race. So did CJ Greaves and Mitch Guthrie Jr. Racers take off two at a time, and the Millers blazed off of the start. Cody suffered a puncture within a couple of miles and had to return to Hammertown for a new wheel, while Hunter took the lead. At the end of the first desert-heavy loop, Chaney had taken the lead from Hunter, who tucked in behind the short-course champ heading into Back Door. Blurton cleaned Back Door in third without his co-pilot getting out to use a safety strap, as Chaney and Miller had done. Six-time KOH champ Mitch Guthrie Sr. and Rodrigo Ampudia (C-A) rounded out the top five at the end of the first loop.
At Chocolate Thunder, more than halfway through the Hammers’ second loop, Hunter Miller had amassed a 12-minute lead, as Chaney had rolled off of a cliff and had to tip his Maverick back on its wheels. Blurton was second and Guthrie was third, with Chaney hot on his rear bumper. Chaney would get by both Guthrie and Blurton for second overall behind Miller, and Blurton would make it a Can-Am sweep of the podium. In fact, Can-Am took eight of the top-10 spots, with Cody Miller recovering for ninth.
Guthrie Senior was fourth and Junior, who had won the previous two Hammers, was 16th after breaking an axle. Shannon Campbell, who had won both the UTVs and 4400s in 2017, had the Hammers bite him. He was 108th, and kids Wayland and Bailey were 113th and 114th. Blake Van de Loo, who won in 2016, was 11th.
Other notable entries included Jeremy McGrath, the “King of Supercross,” in a nearly stock Teryx KRX 1000. He finished 29th in his first KOH. Eliott Watson was 26th in the KOH debut of the Honda Talon. Kristen Matlock was 27th in a Polaris, and husband Wayne was 36th. Sara Price was 39th after rolling down Back Door. Defending SCORE Normally-Aspirated UTV Pro champion Kaden Wells was 44th.
While there have been tougher Hammers in the past, this one was up there in gnarliness. Only 24 percent finished both laps.
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KING OF THE HAMMERS UTV RESULTS
1. Hunter Miller/C-A 04:29:44.201
2. Kyle Chaney/C-A 04:32:24.935
3. Phil Blurton/C-A 04:36:17.552
4. Mitch Guthrie, Sr./Pol 04:47:14.386
5. Nathan Wolff/C-A 04:55:05.224
6. Trey McKinlay/Pol 05:07:21.644
7. Casey Currie/C-A 05:08:49.996
8. Jason Weller/C-A 05:28:07.029
9. Cody Miller/C-A 05:30:34.249
10. Nicolas Turner/C-A 05:36:54.780
Past KOH UTV Winners
2019: Mitch Guthrie Jr./Pol
2018: Mitch Guthrie Jr./Pol
2017: Shannon Campbell/Pol
2016: Blake Van De Loo/Pol
2015: Mitch Guthrie/Pol
2014: Mitch Guthrie/Pol
2013: Mitch Guthrie/Pol
2012: Mitch Guthrie/Pol
2011: Brandon Schueler/Pol
2010: Mitch Guthrie/Pol
2009: Mitch Guthrie/Pol
Read about Yamaha’s big KOH payout here: https://utvactionmag.com/yamahas-big-king-of-hammers-payout/
See the UTV that won KOH here: https://can-am.brp.com/off-road/us/en/models.html