If betting were a “thing” at King of the Hammers, very few would have put money on Dustin Jones finishing the race, let alone claiming a top ten spot. That’s not a jab, that’s just the reality of the toughest UTV race in North America.
Every year, seasoned veterans with years of experience fall victim to the merciless rocks of Johnson Valley. Considering Jones laid eyes on the lakebed for the first time just a day before qualifying, not to mention he has little to no experience rock crawling and the team spent zero time testing it’s Can-Am Maverick X3 x RC prior to the race, no one would have considered him a threat, much less a top contender.
As the face and frontman of S3 Powersports in Shreveport Louisiana, Jones has been involved in the UTV industry since the early days but compared to a lot of his counter parts, his racing career is just out of diapers. To put it in perspective, when S3 racing was born around a Glamis campfire back in 2013, Mitch Guthrie Sr already had four King of the Hammers titles under his belt.
Jones and the S3 Racing crew cut their teeth mud racing throughout the southeast and after winning just about every championship possible, received a call from Can-Am to be a part of it’s Factory Racing effort for 2015. After dabbing in cross country racing and winning a championship, Can-Am invited them to field a car for it’s 2016 desert program.
“Desert racing was completely new to us” admits Jones. “We flew out to the Henderson 250 at the end of 2015 and up to that point, we’d never even seen a desert UTV setup before. In Louisiana, there are no whoops. There’s no sand washes to speak of and there aren’t any rocks like the desert in the southwest.”
Despite their unfamiliarity, Jones and co returned to Louisiana bent on building a desert car to compete in the Parker 250 just six weeks later. This marked their entry into desert racing which has since become the primary focus of S3 Racing.
Fast forward to 2019, with Can-Am as the title sponsor of the King of the Hammers UTV race, the brand asked Jones if he would be willing to participate. With no experience in rock crawling and very little knowledge of building a car to withstand some of the most brutal terrain in North America, Jones and his team assembled the car they named “Balboa” in just three weeks.
With no time for testing, Jones’ first glimpse of the King of the Hammers race course was during qualifying. He finished an impressive 17th place which would place him towards the front of the pack on race day.
Fortunately for Jones, the first 80-90 miles of the race was through the desert which played in his favor until his Can-Am Maverick X3 went into limp mode, limiting them to around 25 MPH for nearly ten miles. After discovering a belt issue in the pit and getting back on the course, Jones estimates they had dropped back to around 40th position. He managed to make up some time in the remaining desert sections but with lap two consisting mostly of technical rock sections, his window was shrinking rapidly.
Ironically, his lack of experience in the rocks played in his favor as he wasn’t really sure how hard and fast he should push. “I watched other people to see if we were running a comparable pace and we were actually able to push harder than a lot of other people were.” Big 35-inch ITP Coyote tires made a huge difference and their winching strategy helped them preserve the car.
“Being we’ve spent a lot of time in the mud, pulling winch line is nothing new for us” said Jones. “Our plan was to try everything once. If we couldn’t make it, back up and pull the winch line. It’s too easy to bend or break something when you’re pushing to get over the rocks.”
By the time Jones crossed the finish line, he had no idea where he actually sat in relation to the rest of the field. “With the trouble at the front of the race, you aren’t able to count the cars you’re getting by because it’s so chaotic. I had no clue where we were, I thought maybe 20th place. I definitely didn’t feel like we had the best run we could have.”
To his (and everyone else’s) surprise, Jones managed to place inside the top ten. Considering 108 racers began the race and only 28 finished in the allotted time, the “first timer” from Louisiana with no experience who saw the course for the first time on race day and managed a top ten finish is without a doubt one of the top stories from the 2019 Nitto King of the Hammers.
Those who know Jones know that his lack of experience isn’t necessarily a handicap. He’s an adaptable racer with a great support system behind him. “I have a lot of faith in my guys and the car they can build” shared Jones. His confidence in his team, a ferocious commitment to giving his all and the support of major brands like Can-Am, S3 Powersports, Monster Energy and many others is a winning combination that has made him one of the premier UTV racers in the country in a relatively short period of time.
One thing is for sure, with a top ten finish under his belt, he’ll be one to watch at the 2020 King of the Hammers.
Blitzing the whoops prepping for King of The Hammers!
Posted by S3 Power Sports on Friday, February 1, 2019
- Name: Balboa
- Make/Model: 2019 Can-Am Maverick X3 X rc
- Build: S3 Power Sports
- For: S3 Racing / KOH
- Date: January 2019
- Color: Custom Wrap
- S3 Power Sports Custom built Chassis
- S3 Power Sports A-Arms
- S3 Power Sports Trailing Arms
- S3 Power Sports Custom High Clearance Radius Rods
- S3 Power Sports HD Tie Rods
- S3 Power Sports Aluminum Work, Dash, & Skins
- S3 Power Sports Custom Winch Bumper & Mounting
- 40” Baja Designs Light Bar
- 15” KMC Grenade Wheels
- 35” ITP Coyote Tires
- RCV Axles
- Viper 6000lb Winch
- PRP Alpha Seats & Harnesses
- Factory UTV Custom UHMW A-Arm Skids, Trailing Arm Skids, Boat Sided Skid Plates, & Belly Skids
- Evolution Power Sports Cat Delete / Reflash
- Double E Racing Suspension & Rear Sway Bar
- Rugged Radios Communication Systems
- Shock Therapy Billet Can-Am Maverick X3 Steering Rack
- Yoshimura Exhaust
- AIM Data Acquisition Module
- Momo Steering Wheel w/ Sweet Disconnect
- Baja Designs Chase Light
- Hess Radiator Relocate
- Sandcraft Driveshaft / Carrier Bearing
- Fast Fill Fuel Dry Break