2018 King of the Hammers: Only the Strong Survived

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It bills itself as the ultimate one-day race, and this year, the event’s hosts promised to make it harder for everyone. And they delivered.

The two main races most enthusiasts pay attention to during Ultra4 Racing‘s annual King of the Hammers are the Smittybilt Every Man Challenge and the big one, the Nitto Tires King of the Hammers powered by Optima Batteries. However, there is more racing than that with UTVs, Motos, and the Holley EFI Shootout between the East Coast rock bouncers and the West Coast Ultra4s. This temporary town is the Mecca of Off-Road for just seven days, but what a seven-day pilgrimage it is.

King of Hammers

While the Bureau of Land Management and the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center had been a thorn in the side of enthusiasts and Ultra4, things have changed within the last five years. Since 2013, there has been an official policy to not only allow the race to happen but keep Johnson Valley open to all enthusiasts for a minimum of 305 days while for a maximum of 60 days, the Marines would only close off 55,000-acres from the public for exercises.


‘We pushed ourselves to the limit. I woke up feeling like hell and battled that all day. It was a bad luck kind of day. I’m just grateful to be here.’ — Erik Miller


During the KOH pre-show at 4 Wheel Parts in Compton, California, Ultra4 owner Dave Cole made a promise that this year’s King of the Hammers wouldn’t be as easy as everyone parroted. He delivered, maybe even going a bit too far. On Feb. 7, the Can-Am King of the Hammers UTV Race had 115 entries but only 15 would take the checkered flag before running out of time. The win would go to Mitch Guthrie, Jr., who was his father’s co-driver until 2017. Mitch Guthrie, Sr., who had won six of the previous nine UTV races and remains the winningest driver in the class, finished third and sandwiched Branden Sims. Sims was hit by a 15-minute penalty for taking a shortcut.

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