Racers kick it into high gear at King of the Hammers

Thousands of racers made their way to Johnson Valley this week for King of the Hammers.

JOHNSON VALLEY — Hammertown kicked into high gear early this week with the start of the qualifying races for King of the Hammers, the 4WP Every Man Challenge and the Holley EFi Shootout.

Hundreds of drivers and their teams are preparing for the world’s toughest off-road races.

Young racers dominated the day on Monday, with Cade Rodd taking top honors in qualifying for the Every Man Challenge in his Branik 4800 Legends buggy and Bailey Cole taking second.

Rodd is the son of Jimmy’s 4x4 owner Randy Rodd, the most prolific chassis manufacturer in ULTRA4 Racing.

At the Holley EFi Shootout, 31-year-old Stephen Rogers scaled a rock climb called “Not Her Problem” in a mere 38 seconds in his Jimmy Smith-built buggy dubbed “Unloyal.”

Only about half of the 29 vehicles in the race made it up to the top of the climb and Smith’s speed secured the win.

Over in Hammertown, the vendor show was jam-packed with the thousand of spectators. WARN Industries, a longtime vendor at King of the Hammers, sold a new product, the Jessi Combs commemorative patch that could be seen on several drivers’ racing suits.

Combs, who was a Morongo Basin resident, died attempting to break her land-speed record in August. She was a frequent competitor at King of the Hammers and was named the first Queen of the Hammers when she won the main race in 2016.

“WARN was a longtime sponsor of Jessi and they really supported what she was trying to do; she was trying to help young girls get opportunities to go into the trades,” said Steve Elms, a board member with the Jessi Combs Foundation.

The proceeds from the commemorative patches will be donated to the foundation, which is raising money for scholarships for women in trades.

“We know that if we can issue even small grants, it might be the difference between someone being able to go to school or not,” Elms said. “Jessi saw that there was not a lot of opportunity or role models for girls in this field so she wanted to create that.”

WARN and the foundation will continue to sell patches, bandannas and other products throughout King of the Hammers to raise money for these scholarships. 

The races continued Tuesday with the start of qualifiers for Friday’s Nitto King of the Hammers. Loren Healy set the bar for qualifying with a blistering time of 2:35 in his Ford-powered Bronco buggy. Healy has won KOH twice in the past; he last won in 2014.

Jason Scherer qualified three seconds behind Healy. This is the fifth consecutive year that Scherer will start on the first row for Friday’s race, where 97 ULTRA4 cars leave two at a time every 30 seconds starting at 8 a.m.

Follow all of the action at ultra4racing.com/live.

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