Million Dollar City springs up in the California Desert.

Means dry lakebed is now home to a multi million-dollar city of recreation vehicles, racecars, big rigs, and an assortment of OHV vehicles. The city of Hammertown which comes to life once a year in the Johnson Valley OHV area is now home to some of the top names in off road Motorsports, including Nascar’s Robby Gordon fresh off a victory in Parker Arizona. The 2012 King of the Hammers is in full swing with team’s pre running today for the main event, which will be held Friday the 10th.


Standing around the camp fire any evening this week will yield conversations with drivers, industry leaders, and icons of the off road industry in their native setting. It is not uncommon to find Gordon eating a hamburger at the food court and sharing stories about the Dakar rally, or listen in to a discussion on where the sport is headed with tech inspectors, and manufactures around the city campfire.  That is the true beauty of KOH. It’s a week of grassroots racing on the cusp of going mainstream. With over 100 media outlets, and countless TV production companies here in Hammertown history is being made in the same manner as dirt track racing, or Baja before large corporate sponsorships, and celebrity limited the access to the top teams. Attendees are encouraged to interact with the teams, and drive the racecourse this week leading up to the race.


In the early hours of the morning a line of racecars wait for King shock’s master tuner to arrive with a cup of coffee. The half dozen drivers and crew chief’s listen quietly to the tech explain the day’s schedule of customized shock tuning a service King includes with a purchase of the product. In fact the week is busy for shock manufactures with 6 different companies spending as much as 10 days before the event working on shock tuning. “We have almost 150 vendors represented here in Hammertown with most all of them servicing vehicles and selling products. 4 Wheel parts is offering daily delivery, and Off Road Warehouse has built a small store here on the lakebed selling parts,” said event director Chris Bolger. Bolger went on to say, “ You can learn to weld, see brand new products, and have your Jeep fixed making our vendor show a unique opportunity for off-roaders.”


Today marks the most laid back day in the schedule as teams make last minute adjustments in anticipation of tomorrows qualifying runs. The spectator friendly format of qualifying will be one of the highlights of the event, on a 3-mile course.  Contingency offers attendees the last chance to meet the drivers and see the cars up close on Thursday.


Not all teams are able to take full advantage of the schedule as they search for parts, and wait for deliveries in this remote location, one such driver is Eric Anderson who broke a transmission in half testing shocks with Bilstein. “Thankfully I live locally to the Hammers and have been able to secure a replacement.  We expect to install it today, and get some more testing done, It’s a brand new car so we are finding a few flaws.” Anderson added, “We have come a long way since I co drove in a leaf-sprung rock crawler 6 years ago.”


It takes an Army to produce this event, and Shawn Bootsma Volunteer coordinator knows first hand the difficulty in the logistics of over 200 volunteers. “ We are so lucky to have a dedicated staff of volunteers that come from all over the country to help make this event possible.” Bootsma who has been with the event since the beginning also serves as “Race Operations” directing radio traffic for Hammerking Productions. Boostma is a prime example of the staff that dedicates a week of vacation time to make the event happen. Mel Foster whose husband is serving in Afghanistan travels from Colorado pulling a 38-foot travel trailer every year to work in the merchandise trailer. “ This is my family, I can’t imagine not being here.” Foster and her husband are a representation of what makes this sport great. It’s a sport in which the teams build the cars, and race them with a group of friends in tow. That may be changing with bigger budgets, and bigger names. This year the technology has pushed a gap in the vehicles that will see 2 dozen teams with budgets in excess of 6- figures, but there will always be room for the foundation of the sports, which now offers 3 classes of Ultra4 races, and a UTV and Motorcycle class.  The race may be the focal point, but it is obvious the family value that surrounds this event is what has seen the explosive growth that keeps people coming back ye

About the Author

Jeff Knoll is the former Event Director for the King of the Hammers event. He has raced various classes in SCORE, BITD, MORE, and MDR. Following the California 200, Knoll travelled to Washington, DC to meet with BLM officials regarding the Special Recreation Permit policies of the BLM. Knoll serves on the BLM’s Desert Advisory Sub-Committee regarding Special Recreation Permits. Knoll also drafted language for Nevada’s Senate Bill 156 in 2011 regarding action sports safety.

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