A New King: Who to Watch For
Just days away from the biggest King of the Hammers race in history, teams are preparing for battle in what is called “the toughest single-day day race in the world.” While over 110 teams have thrown in their bid to participate in this contest, only one can be crowned king. History has shown that your odds of winning KOH greatly increases if you’ve already been crowned King once before (or twice, in the case of Team Nitto driver Shannon Campbell, who is the only driver with who holds three titles). But will this year be different? Will a new King emerge, taking the throne for the top contender in the 2019 King of the Hammers? We’ve picked some drivers we think have a good chance, as they’ve been getting closer and closer to the top of the podium with each passing year.
JP Gomez with Gomez Brothers Racing has proven he can take on anyone with his single-seat UFO fabrication Ultra4 car. After taking the top of the box for the last two races of the 2018 season, JP is a force to be reckoned with in the 4400 class—especially in the desert. If JP can take keep a strong lead in Friday’s race, there’s little that can stop him from crossing the finish line first.
While Cody isn’t a strange face to Ultra4 Racing, his newest endeavors include purchasing Loren Healy’s old race car, known as the Red Dragon. Although it’s now rocking fresh orange and black livery, Cody’s race car is the winningest Ultra4 in the world. Loren piloted it countless Ultra4 season wins throughout the years. Of course, it takes much more than a winning car to win KOH, but Cody has consistently shown that he’s able to tame the Red Dragon and turn out some very fast laps.
One of the young bucks of Ultra4, Levi has been after the crown for several years. His driving is consistent, and it’s evident he has put in the time to make sure his car is in top performing shape. But like many KOH stories, bad luck plays a big factor. Given a smooth race, Levi has the chops to get a KOH win.
Racing under the shadow of your three-time king father isn’t easy, but if there’s anyone who can best Shannon Campbell at his own game, it’s his son Wayland. With multiple wins throughout the Ultra4 season, podium finishes in the UTV class race, and a “never-quit” attitude that has earned him several 4400 class top 10 finishes at KOH, Wayland definitely has what it takes to be king. Wayland has a strong family support system, effective pit crew and near bulletproof Campbell Enterprises race car, making him one of our top drivers to look for this year’s KOH winner.
After a hiatus from Ultra4 racing to pursue other forms of off-road racing, Nick Nelson returned to KOH last year with his freshly built Jimmy’s 4x4 chassis race car, nicknamed Khaleesi, only to suffer a race-forfeiting engine failure during prerunning on the lake bed. Nick focused on getting into his groove with the new car in 2018, doing well across the season’s races. At the 2018 Ultra4 Nationals, he actually finished 2nd place, crossing the finish line in reverse. Perhaps most impressive, Nick laid down the fastest qualifying lap for this year’s KOH race, putting him on the pole position for the big race on Friday. This may be the best chance Nick Nelson has ever had to become the new King, and we know he’s hungry for it.
One of the most intriguing aspects of KOH is that anything can happen. While starting positions and prior wins play an important role, so much can happen over the course of this race to turn everything upside down. While we’re always eager to see our past Kings reach for the crown once again, nothing beats the excitement of your first KOH win.