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King of the Hammers: ‘This is the big one'
Racers face grueling challenge at King of the Hammers
JOHNSON VALLEY • When the green flag waved Friday morning, 129 racers were set to start the 2013 Griffin King of the Hammers.
The race organizer said he’d be “shocked” if even a third of them finished.
“The reality is, auto racing being auto racing, there’s cars that just have problems and they’re not ready to be inside a rock canyon,” King of the Hammers co-founder Dave Cole said. “You just don’t know until you get going.”
Competitors took their rock buggies through more than 100 miles of combined open desert racing and rock-crawling in the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area. The race began at 8 a.m. and top finishers were expected to come in early Friday evening, but some drivers needed more than 14 hours to finish.
Results were scheduled appear on ultra4racing.com but were not available at press time. An awards ceremony will be held this morning.
NASCAR star Robby Gordon competed in the event for the second consecutive year and started fourth, but by Friday afternoon it looked unlikely that he would complete the race after he rolled his vehicle at the top of an area known as Wrecking Ball.
“(Gordon) only made it 11 miles last year; this year he was in the hunt for quite a while,” Cole said. “If 35 percent (of the drivers) finish this race, I’ll be shocked. ... Everybody’s going to break something today. You’re going to get a flat tire, you’re going to break a shock. Something’s going to fail on your car. Your ability to overcome that and plan for that is what saves you.”
Thousands of spectators swarmed to the popular viewing areas such as Chocolate Thunder, a treacherous rock canyon near the Hammertown staging area at Means Dry Lake. Others stayed at Hammertown and watched the action live on jumbo video screen.
Volunteer Harry Baker, who oversaw the main entry gate, estimated that 30,000 people had come to the races throughout the week.
“The whole thing of rock racing has just taken off throughout the nation,” Baker said. “And this is the big one.”