There is no denying that the volume of UTVs are taking over the desert. The 2021 King of the Hammers proves that the SXS race is here to stay with almost 100 cars taking the start this morning. With a drastic itinerary change this year, the race found its place closer to the iconic 4400 race. These drivers and teams put on quite a show and have become a fan favorite among the week long event in Johnson Valley CA.
After an incredible finish at Monday’s qualifying run, the Can-Am of Jay Shaw #17 had clean air when the green flag dropped. Shaw would be chased by one of the most talented field of drivers we have ever seen in a UTV race. Lap one would consist of mostly battered desert trails with some dual track ridge lines allowing no room for error. By Mile 75, Shaw had relinquished the lead to Hunter Miller #190, Kyle Chaney #191 with Ronnie Anderson #52x now in third. The top 5 were seemingly conservative in the desert knowing they could throw the race away before finishing the first lap. What may look like clean wide open trails unexpectedly turn to square whoops and hidden rocks lying in wait.
The rocks of lap 2 are where the race is won and what makes King of the Hammers truly the hardest one day race in the country. Technical steep climbs and descents over and around vehicle sized boulders means most co-drivers often have to get out and pull the winch line, or worse wait for another team doing the same. This effort can be repeated time and time again, losing precious time against the leaders. Assuring a spot on the podium requires driver experience to save that valuable time and keep the navigator belted in.
A small mistake in Outer Limits by Miller, last year’s winner, would hand the lead to Kyle Chaney. A mechanical issue would soon take Hunter out of the race, all while his brother Cody was charging hard to the front of the pack. A small crowd had gathered at Jack Hammer to watch what was anticipated to be a major hurdle for all cars. Chaney stunned us all and breezed his way up Jack Hammer, while Anderson and Shaw had to pull rope. Cody Miller followed up and hammered down, even using Shaw for traction at one point to get around both he and Anderson. The true star of Jack Hammer was undoubtedly Terry Madden. His driver Sara Price broke in the preferred line, blocking other competitors for quite some time. Madden hustled the treacherous terrain to guide others over the tougher lines while they tracked down needed parts to get under way.
Phil Burton #944 had qualified eighth, but ended up having to recover from a flat tire early in the race. He regained his position quickly and would exit Jack Hammer in fourth place and then picking off Shaw a short time later back in the desert. After the toughest trails of the day, the teams held on all they could for a few more miles of desert. Chaney would finish in just 3hr47min and take a commanding win over his teammates Cody Miller and Phil Blurton to complete a Can-Am sweep of the podium for a second year in a row. Polaris RZR Factory Driver, Ronnie Anderson came on strong in the final miles, including an exciting tumble off the finish line jump, but missed the podium by 1min25sec.
There were a total of 46 finishers from all major manufacturers and teams from across the nation. The King of the Hammers UTV event has truly brought the ultimate race together in one place, and tests the skills of short course, desert, and rock racers alike. The crown is certainly earned, and will be battled for yet again in 2022. Preparation begins now.