The 2023 King of the Hammers in Johnson Valley, California, saw a blend of new and more of the same. The latter camp included Raul Gomez claiming the Race of Kings that closed out the two-week event for the second year in a row, while the former ranged from the débuts of Great American Shortcourse to the tumultuous racing introduction for SPEED UTV.
King of the Hammers served as the season opener for multiple championships including Ultra4 USA, AMA US Hard Enduro, and GAS for the first time. Hard Enduro kicked off KOH with the King of Motos, won by Trystan Hart for the second time after he held off five-time victor Cody Webb. Kylee Sweeten won in the Moto women’s category.
GAS, now in its third year of operation, competed on a special track prepared by Nor Cal Rock Racing, with Championship Off-Road regular Ryan Beat winning the premier Pro 2 class. Extreme E driver Sara Price competed in the Class 11 race, independent from the Class 11 Showdown that took place two days prior on the main desert course, and finished sixth.
The Class 11 Showdown, which began with a 37-wide land rush start, was claimed by former SCORE International champion Alex Gonzales. Gonzales was racing a new Volkswagen Beetle, nicknamed Francie, that he intends to use throughout his 2023 races in the United States.
Robby Gordon underwent an up-and-down week. He and son Max entered the Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship under his SPEED UTV brand, a relative newcomer to racing competition after being developed over the past three years, where Max struggled with transmission problems while Robby retired after losing a continuous variable transmission belt and elected to pull out to preserve the car for the Mint 400 in March.
The older Gordon was then a late addition to the main Race of Kings event after partnering with Gomez’s team. After being the second-to-last driver to start the race, he finished ninth.
King of the Hammers’ Toyo Tires Desert Challenge is the first of three legs in the Unlimited Off-Road Racing Triple Crown Championship, alongside the Mint 400 and California 300 in October.
Adam Householder won the Desert Challenge Unlimited race to lead the Unlimited Triple Crown standings ahead of Tim Herbst, while Gomez was tenth. Dustin Grabowski finished runner-up overall behind Householder to hold the early advantage in the Unlimited Spec class. Ezra Ebberts topped the Limited race to be the Class 10 leader while Gonzales’ Class 11 victory makes him the top dog there.
King of the Hammers overall winners
|King of the Motos||29 January||1||Trystan Hart||1:44:28|
|Class 11 Showdown||4 February||1196||Alex Gonzales||1:11:54|
|Terra Crew||4 February||1494||Vincent Muñoz||38:52.635|
|Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Unlimited||5 February||24||Adam Householder||3:19:44|
|Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Limited||5 February||1077||Ezra Ebberts||3:53:15|
|Kids Stock||8 February||119||Cole Warner||12:47.750|
|Kids Mod||8 February||325||Jackson Mandle||15:17.402|
|UTV Hammers Championship||9 February||191||Kyle Chaney||3:31:45|
|Every Man Challenge||10 February||4837||Jeremy Jones||4:42:52|
|Race of Kings||11 February||83||Raul Gomez||5:45:27|
Great American Shortcourse winners
|Youth 1000 UTV||918||Drake Mittag|
|J1 Kart||297||Ian Torfi|
|RZR 170||110||Triton Lawrence|
|J2 Kart||484||Mikey Childress|
|Mini Stock||70||Brent Veenstra|
|Class 11||1191||Ryan Rodriguez|
|Limited Buggy||319||Carson Smith|
|SR1 UTV||11||Paul O’Brien|
|Modified Kart||507||Cade Martin|
|Production 1000 UTV||88||George Llamosas|
|Production Turbo UTV||10||Jason Weller|
|Pro Buggy||33||Lorenzo Bonacci|
|Pro Lite||2||Connor Barry|
|Pro 2||51||Ryan Beat|