February 10, 2023 (Johnson Valley, CA) – The 2023 Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship brought 107 competitors to the rocky desert trails and tracks of the 2023 Progressive King of the Hammers Powered by OPTIMA Batteries. The race through the rocks this year saw a three-peat overall winner, and surprisingly quick elapsed times over the 142-mile course that was called one of the roughest that drivers had seen after their prologue qualifying rounds the day prior.
The race-prepped UTVs which lined up for the start ranged from full-custom builds to near bone-stock cars in four different classes. All had powerful engines with suspension and drivetrain systems that resemble full-blown race buggies. The most popular class with the highest number of entries was the Pro Mod, with 46 entries, followed by Pro Stock Turbo, with 31 competitors. The other three classes, Open, Pro Stock NA, and Sportsman Stock, featured competitive drivers and aggressive machines.
Battling the tough racecourse with ferocious but calculated driving styles, a few drivers began to pull away from the pack. One of them was Pro Stock Turbo class Can-Am UTV driver Kyle Chaney (191), who started third behind Pro Mod drivers Paul Wolff (1018) and pole-sitter Jay Shaw (17). Chaney fought for and gained the physical lead through the desert section and was leading through the main pit in Hammertown after setting a blistering pace on the first lap in his Can-Am Maverick X3.
Bryce Menzies (Open – 7) had moved from seventh to second on the road after lap 1, and Phil Blurton (Pro Mod – 944) was third to complete the desert lap. Blurton had said he wanted to be in the top five before going into the rocks. Not far behind them were Dustin Jones (Pro Mod), Cody Miller (Pro Stock Turbo), Jay Shaw (Pro Mod) and Ronnie Anderson (Pro Mod).
The rock lap was fortuitous for some and devastating for others and soon became decorated with broken or limping race cars. Despite the hazards, Chaney made quick work of lap two and crossed the finish line before noon for an overall elapsed time of 3 hours, 31 minutes, 45 seconds. This was Chaney’s third win at the UTV Hammers Championship.
Chaney gave some thoughts about his race. “It’s definitely a mind game for sure. I mean, you just think about it (the race and course) all the time and think about the trails changing and everything. You pre-run as much as you can, but everything changes every time you get to it.” On the importance of winning three times, Chaney laughed and said, “It’s awesome. Now I can afford the fuel to get home.”
Blurton followed Chaney with an overall time of 3 hours, 44 minutes, 16 seconds over the two-lap course for a second overall and first in Pro Mod. Cole Clark (Pro Mod – 24) had driven a near-perfect race to come all the way up from 22nd off the start to third place overall and second in class with a time of 3 hours, 45 minutes, and 4 seconds.
When asked about why King of the Hammers is special to him, Blurton (Pro Mod) told us, “It’s fun, and rough, and violent in the car the whole time, but we run almost 30 races a year and there’s nothing like this with all the people and the vendors and the crowd. It’s one of the hardest races we do all year and the one we haven’t won yet. Looks like we’re going to have to come back again next year and try again.”
Clark passed a lot of cars on his way to the podium. “Getting through the dust in the desert was the worst for me, but the rocks were fun. Driving solo takes so much more preparation and I use two GPS units. You have to know exactly what’s going on and keep your head in the game. I spent two weeks out here pre-running and know every inch of the course.”
Most of the attention was on the three overall finishers, but there was very competitive racing going on within each class. Dustin Jones (978) moved fast the entire race, only getting passed in the rocks by Clark, for third in Pro Mod and fourth overall. Hunter Miller (190) was second in Pro Stock Turbo and fifth overall. Cody Miller (221) took third in Pro Stock Turbo and fifth overall. Casey Currie took first in Open (2) and placed 10th overall, Shannon Campbell (5) was the second-place finisher in Open class, and Michael Lee (211) came in third in Open for the day.
After getting out of the car, Jones (Pro Mod) remarked, “I feel like we just got done with a five-hour fistfight. The hard whoops blow your backbone out. Rough rocks snatch the wheel out of your hand. I think my thumb might be broken, but man it’s just fun. That’s good fun to me.”
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Hunter Miller (Pro Stock Turbo) had to push his car about 100 yards to finish the race in 5th place. “We blew a belt as soon as we crossed on to the short course. We coasted as far as we could, then I asked my co-driver if we should change it? He said, ‘no, we’re pushing her across the finish.’ If I had known we’d be pushing a car I would have trained a lot of harder. It’s funny because my brother Cody (who finished 6th overall) has been working out pretty solid for the last four months. I guess I should have too.”
Brian Tilton (916) was the Sportsman Stock winner, second place in Sportsman Stock went to Hubert Rowland (615), and Dylan Heiser (5924) took third place in Stock Sportsman. The Pro Stock NA class winner was Kyle Anderson (4960), second in the Pro Stock NA class was AJ Hoover (3947), and Anthony Yount (69) finished the 2023 UTV Hammers Championship third place in the Pro Stock NA class.