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2018 Can-Am King of the Hammers UTV Race Recap

Mitch Guthrie Jr.

By Jon Crowley

UTVs have been part of King of the Hammers for ten years now and I have been to each. Eight of them as a racer and two as a media guy.

King of The Hammers takes place each year in February, on public lands in Johnson Valley, CA.  The race has evolved from 12 teams racing for bragging rights and a case of beer, to more than 300 teams competing before more than 35,000 fans in person and nearly 500,000 watching online. There are several other classes that race during King of the Hammers, so there is action on the lakebed for more than a week.

During the first few years, the course was just a sprint through the desert with just a few minor rocks trails. Then in 2013, Dave Cole decided that UTVs needed to be either in or out and created a course where about 10% of the racers finished (see 2013 King of the Hammers UTV Race). As drivers and vehicles improved, Cole made the course harder. 2015 was another hallmark year when less than 10% finished (see 2015 King of the Hammers UTV Race Recap). I raced in both of these years and was thrilled to be on the podium both times. But I am really not a racer, so preparing and executing for this race takes a huge toll on me. I really do love to hate this race because I love to rock crawl and have learned to love the trails and challenges found at Johnson Valley, but I hate the preparation and nerves of race week.

2017 King of the Hammers UTV Race

2017 King of the Hammers UTV Race

I had planned to race again for 2018 with my good friend Reid Nordin.  We raced last year and I was super proud that we landed on the podium (see 2017 King of the Hammers UTV Race Recap). Well something happened along the way, and we kinda lost our mojo to race. Again the love/hate thing kicked in and we decided to be involved as much as possible with pre-running and media, but skip out on the actual race. Looking back now on that decision, I think I slept quite a bit better the last few months, but I know we could have been very competitive on this year’s super tough course.

In my mind, the perfect scenario would be to go back to the original King of the Hammers when it was the original guys on the lakebed with nothing else.  Start here, hit these trails and the first guy back here wins. No tech, no qualifying, no trackers. Just a little grudge match. I might make something like this happen at some point, but for now King of the Hammers is all we have.

We made a run to Johnson Valley in early December with a few other racers to check out a few the trails that have been part of King of the Hammers in past years. Always super fun to ride in Johnson Valley, but it is much more exciting once you know something about the course.

After the live show, Dave Cole let it slip that the UTV course would include Spooners. Spooners is a tough trail that has been included in the 4400 class for several years, and is always paired with Outer Limits. Reid and I teamed up with Mitch Guthrie, Mitch Guthrie Jr. and Aaron and Maddie from PRP Seats and decided to check these trails out first had.

These two trails are no joke and with over 100 racers already signed up, I knew that this year’s race was going to be epic!

Fast forward to race week, and I showed up on Wednesday night, a full week before the UTV race.  My plan was to pre-run as much of the course as possible with some of the top racers to give everyone some insight to the course and the racers.

I got together with Dean Bulloch and his new Textron Off-Road Wildcat XX on Jack North, Jackhammer, Spooners and Backdoor.

I also was out on Outer Limits, Highway 19/20 and Aftershock with the Guthries.

I ran out to Cougar Buttes with Ross Pilgreen.

Saturday arrived and it was time for qualifying.  With over 85 set to qualify it was going to be an all day thing. The biggest news here was that Johnny and CJ Greaves topped the list in their turbocharged Yamaha YXZ1000R.

CJ Greaves

CJ Greaves setting the 2nd fastest qualifying time in his Yamaha YXZ1000R

Full qualifying results: 2018 Can-Am KOH HCR UTV Qualifying and Randomized Start Order.

Later in the week I hit Highway 19/20, Resolution and Backdoor with Phil Blurton from No Limit with his Can-Am Maverick X3.

Monday night was the Shootout and Cash LeCroy had entered his custom single-seat RZR XP Turbo against big rock buggies. This kids definitely has a future in off-road racing!

Tuesday arrived and we spent most of the day in tech and contingency.

Sara Price

Jesse Johnson

Wednesday finally arrived and I had picked out a few places to catch some of the action. I skipped the start line and went out to race mile 3.

CJ Greaves was first to pass me in his Yamaha YXZ1000R. The top ten start was basically unchanged through this point, but several racers were already out of the race.

From race mile 3 I moved over to race mile 57 right before they entered the first tough rocks with Resolution and Backdoor. I was amazed when the first UTV that passed me was CJ Greaves again.  Mitch Guthrie Jr., Casey Currie, Johnny Greaves, Branden Sims and Mitch Guthrie were all in the top ten.

I watched the top 10-15 through race mile 57, then headed over to Jack North.  I had pre-run this trail and knew that it could become a bottleneck with broken UTVs and some winching. Mitch Guthrie Jr. was the first to hit Jack North at 11:15 AM. Johnny Greaves, CJ Greaves, Casey Currie, Cody Currie, Branden Sims Mark Burnett, Mitch Guthrie would follow in that order.

Mitch Guthrie Jr.

Mitch Guthrie Jr. was the first UTV to hit Jack North for #KOH2018. The team played it safe and took their time on this obstacle in their Polaris RZR. The strategy paid off with a win at King of The Hammers!

Posted by UTV Guide on Sunday, February 11, 2018

CJ Greaves

Casey Scherer

Aaron and Maddie Wedeking

From Jack North I had planned to head over to Outer Limits because that was the hardest part of the course.  But by the time I hiked back down to my RZR, Mitch Guthrie Jr. had already entered Outer Limits. I decided to skip that and try and catch a few coming down Backdoor for the final part of the race.

Mitch Guthrie Jr. coming down Backdoor for the win.

Branden Sims

Branden Sims

Mitch Guthrie Jr. had checked out and was through Backdoor and on the podium in first place.  He finished the course in just 5:54:43!  Rounding out the podium would be Braden Sims and Mitch Guthrie Sr.

King of the Hammers

Left to Right: Mitch Guthrie, Mitch Guthrie Jr. and Braden Sims

CJ Greaves crossed the line physically in third place, but suffered a 15 minute penalty for missing a checkpoint which moved him to fifth place. CJ had the fastest first lap time at 1:47:08.

Twelve racers would finish the race in the alloted time. Polaris RZR swept the podium and had six of the twelve finishers.  Yamaha had three finishers and Can-Am would also have three.

At the end of the day, about 10% finished the race and this matches the finish rate in 2013 and 2015.  I believe this was the toughest course to date, but the cars have progressed so much over the last five years that UTVs are highly competitive against times for the 4400 class. In addition, the UTV race is attracting more driver’s outside the UTV-only world and this raises the bar even more.

Huge congrats to Mitch Guthrie Jr. for the flawless run at the 2018 King of the Hammers UTV race!

More Resources:

2018 Can-Am King of the Hammers UTV Race Presented by HCR Racing Results

PLACE NAME CAR START LAP1 LAP2 PENALTY FINAL
1 MITCH GUTHRIE JR 9 8:01:00 1:53:45 4:00:58 0:00:00 5:54:43
2 BRANDEN SIMS 913 8:04:30 1:50:10 4:31:48 0:15:00 6:36:58
3 MITCH GUTHRIE SR 6 8:06:30 2:06:03 4:47:04 0:00:00 6:53:07
4 CASEY CURRIE 2 8:00:30 1:49:45 5:04:36 0:00:00 6:54:21
5 CJ GREAVES 33 8:00:00 1:47:08 4:55:56 0:15:00 6:58:04
6 MARC BURNETT 905 8:06:00 1:59:19 5:09:29 0:00:00 7:08:48
7 JOHNNY GREAVES 122 8:00:00 1:48:56 5:24:45 0:00:00 7:13:41
8 PHIL BLURTON 944 8:04:00 2:05:26 5:15:13 0:00:00 7:20:39
9 KYLE ANDERSON 1930 8:10:30 2:04:15 5:28:22 0:00:00 7:32:37
10 ROSS PILGREEN 111 8:07:00 2:02:20 5:42:58 0:03:00 7:48:18
11 JACOB VERSEY 4931 8:09:30 2:05:52 5:42:53 0:00:00 7:48:45
12 RICKY FARMER 4959 8:13:00 2:08:00 5:44:16 0:00:00 7:52:16
DNF LOREN HEALY 67 8:02:30 2:02:57 5:59:49 DNF OOT
DNF BAILEY CAMPBELL 35 8:05:30 2:31:42 5:38:26 DNF OOT
DNF CODY CURRIE 22 8:08:00 1:53:21 6:20:55 DNF OOT
DNF CASEY SCHERER 79 8:20:00 1:55:02 DNF DNF DNF
DNF CASEY PEOPLES 1128 8:11:00 1:56:35 DNF DNF DNF
DNF ROBERT VANBEEKUM 1964 8:01:30 2:01:48 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JOHN CURRIE 202 8:03:00 2:03:28 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JEFF PALHEGYI 1931 8:14:00 2:03:47 DNF DNF DNF
DNF CODY NYGREN 1916 8:11:30 2:05:47 DNF DNF DNF
DNF DEAN BULLOCH 93 8:16:00 2:06:32 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JT WALTON 1970 8:05:00 2:10:40 DNF DNF DNF
DNF BAILEY COLE 4954 8:22:30 2:12:52 DNF DNF DNF
DNF BRENT ZIMMERMAN 31 8:14:00 2:13:24 DNF DNF DNF
DNF GARISON CALLAWAY 1914 8:21:30 2:14:24 DNF DNF DNF
DNF KEVIN HART 773 8:06:30 2:14:52 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JOSH CHAPMAN 4907 8:27:00 2:17:06 DNF DNF DNF
DNF WAYLAND CAMPBELL 3 8:10:00 2:18:56 DNF DNF DNF
DNF SARA PRICE 78 8:03:30 2:19:19 DNF DNF DNF
DNF LOGAN GOODALL 1950 8:26:00 2:19:43 DNF DNF DNF
DNF AARON WEDEKING 1808 8:14:30 2:20:19 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JASON ONEAL 101 8:17:00 2:22:21 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JOHN DUCKWORTH 1920 8:12:30 2:25:08 DNF DNF DNF
DNF SHANE REDLINE 4912 8:24:00 2:25:50 DNF DNF DNF
DNF GEORGE HEFFINGTON 1973 8:21:00 2:26:05 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JAMES CANTRELL 502 8:11:00 2:28:10 DNF DNF DNF
DNF ERIK JOKINEN 901 8:26:00 2:29:56 DNF DNF DNF
DNF MICHAEL SAWYER 4905 8:15:00 2:30:20 DNF DNF DNF
DNF MATT CHAPMAN 52 8:16:00 2:30:27 DNF DNF DNF
DNF GREG UFFENS 1944 8:15:30 2:34:36 DNF DNF DNF
DNF KNOX GRIFFIN 278 8:03:00 2:34:57 DNF DNF DNF
DNF DUSTIN ROBBINS 311 8:09:30 2:36:00 DNF DNF DNF
DNF CONNOR FULTS 4906 8:12:00 2:37:20 DNF DNF DNF
DNF PAT OKEEFE 4923 8:19:30 2:39:52 DNF DNF DNF
DNF EVAN ENGELHARDT 1991 8:02:00 2:42:52 DNF DNF DNF
DNF TRAVIS ZOLLINGER 220 8:12:00 2:43:21 DNF DNF DNF
DNF BILL BAIRD 5252 8:07:30 2:47:57 DNF DNF DNF
DNF AARON QUESADA 3124 8:10:00 2:49:42 DNF DNF DNF
DNF AARON HENRY 209 8:14:30 2:50:36 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JAMI PELLEGRINO 485 8:23:00 2:51:36 DNF DNF DNF
DNF SHANNON CAMPBELL 5 8:01:30 2:57:56 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JEROD BIRZER 425 8:19:00 2:58:12 DNF DNF DNF
DNF ALAN CLARK 4975 8:04:30 2:58:44 DNF DNF DNF
DNF MATT MYRICK 2116 8:26:30 3:02:23 DNF DNF DNF
DNF PHIL CAGLIERO 21 8:03:30 3:02:32 DNF DNF DNF
DNF HUBERT ROWLAND 615 8:15:30 3:03:41 DNF DNF DNF
DNF CHRIS ARMSTRONG 706 8:15:00 3:06:42 DNF DNF DNF
DNF NATHAN OWEN 1776 8:28:00 3:08:45 DNF DNF DNF
DNF DREW SCHULTS 1932 8:19:30 3:09:16 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JUSTIN BARTH 2700 8:20:00 3:10:53 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JUSTIN COCHRAN 4972 8:25:30 3:11:24 DNF DNF DNF
DNF TOMAS LLAMAS 726 8:20:30 3:14:05 DNF DNF DNF
DNF CRAIG HONNOLL 1908 8:18:30 3:15:46 DNF DNF DNF
DNF MATTHEW WILSON 1903 8:09:00 3:17:53 DNF DNF DNF
DNF CHACE RODD 4970 8:22:00 3:19:26 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JOSHUA SMITH 1948 8:23:30 3:21:12 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JIM HENLE 411 8:17:30 3:21:26 DNF DNF DNF
DNF ROBERT FORREST SMITH 965 8:18:00 3:21:31 DNF DNF DNF
DNF BLAKE VAN DE LOO 1945 8:02:00 3:37:54 DNF DNF DNF
DNF JASON WELLER 1910 8:05:00 3:44:27 DNF DNF DNF
DNF SEAN STROUD 1028 8:00:30 3:45:41 DNF DNF DNF
DNF BEN COLLIER 713 8:25:30 3:46:03 DNF DNF DNF
DNF RYAN BERGAMINI 1933 8:24:00 3:46:04 DNF DNF DNF
DNF MARK MACDONALD 4910 8:24:30 3:46:39 DNF DNF DNF
DNF BRIAN FULKERSON 208 8:24:00 3:49:12 DNF DNF DNF
DNF MICHAEL LEE 211 8:23:00 3:53:31 DNF DNF DNF
DNF AUSTIN WEILAND 4927 8:04:00 4:00:22 DNF DNF DNF
DNF ERIK MILLER 921 8:05:30 4:05:25 DNF DNF DNF
DNF BILL HILLIARD 89 8:13:00 4:12:03 DNF DNF DNF
DNF TYSON SMITH 4944 8:18:30 4:18:36 DNF DNF DNF
DNF SCOTT MUCHOW 4916 8:07:30 4:20:26 DNF DNF DNF
DNF BRIAN CAPRARA 991 8:08:30 4:28:28 DNF DNF DNF
DNF CHRIS BARNETT 1961 8:07:00 4:48:22 DNF DNF DNF
DNF DARIAN GOMEZ 90 8:01:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF JESSE JOHNSON 1947 8:02:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF RON SCHAEFER 4911 8:06:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF DUSTIN NELSON 994 8:08:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF AUSTIN PENNINGTON 259 8:08:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF SEAN HALUCH 1905 8:09:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF GEORGE LISENBERY 1966 8:10:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF KIERAN COX 142 8:11:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF JP GOMEZ 82 8:12:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF WILL HARRIS 4903 8:13:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF RAUL GOMEZ 83 8:13:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF AARON CLARK 1002 8:16:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF COLE CLARK 24 8:16:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF DAVID MIZE 5585 8:17:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF PATRICK MURRAY 902 8:17:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF BRAYDON EDDY 4985 8:18:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF RANDY JELLEFF 4902 8:19:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF DAN WALLER 261 8:20:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF ROB FRYREAR 1999 8:21:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF MARCOS GOMEZ 86 8:21:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF BROC SMITH 1941 8:22:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF DANIEL MARKLEY 777 8:22:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF PAUL KROUT 4915 8:23:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF JEFFREY DONDA 4908 8:24:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF CHASE BRIDGMON 1975 8:25:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF TODD COOK 1110 8:26:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF TANNER STEPHENS 6851 8:27:00 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF RANDY SOUTHALL 4988 8:27:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNF LUIS GALLARDO 492 8:27:30 DNF DNF DNF DNF
DNS OCEAN RODD 4913 8:24:00 DNS DNF DNF DNS
DNS ROBBY GORDON 4977 8:25:00 DNS DNF DNF DNS

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