JP Gomez Keeps Family Winning Streak Alive By Winning Nitto Race of Kings at the 2024 King of the Hammers
When you learn that one of the Gomez brothers won King of the Hammers’ Race of Kings, you might not be surprised. Your first inclination might be to think that Raul Gomez won the 2024 Progressive King of the Hammers Presented by Nitto Tire and Powered by OPTIMA Batteries, but this year the victory went to his brother, JP. Longtime followers of Ultra4 racing won’t be shocked to learn of JP’s triumph. JP is no stranger to success, winning the Ultra4 Nationals in 2018 and finishing second to Randy Slawson at King of the Hammers in 2021. In fact, for years he was the favored Gomez brother to win King of the Hammers.
For the uninitiated, King of the Hammers is a two-week gasoline-fueled party in the desert with moto races, UTVs, concerts, desert racing, and culminates with the Race of Kings. Considered the most challenging one day race on the planet, the Race of Kings consists of a lap through the desert over three-foot whoops and triple digit speeds over dry lake beds, followed by two laps through the washing machine sized boulders of the infamous Hammer trails of Johnson Valley. Normally you would want a Trophy Truck in the desert and a moon buggy in the rocks, but at King of the Hammers you must conquer all of this terrain in the same vehicle.
In more recent years, JP’s accomplishments have been overshadowed by his brothers Raul and Marcos, with Raul winning the Race of Kings the last two years in a row. In 2023, JP didn’t even finish the race, and this year saw him starting at the back of the field after barrel rolling down Backdoor in qualifying, which isn’t typically considered a recipe for success. Even at the finish line this year, JP Gomez reached the checkered flag behind Kyle Cheney, who was mobbed by the crowd for physically finishing first in his Cam-AM UTV. Starting at the back of the pack helped JP in this instance, where the winner is based on corrected time. That put him ahead of not only Cheney but the rest of the field as well.
Perhaps the lack of pressure to lead, or even to win, allowed JP Gomez to retain his composure and run a smooth race from start to finish. He also retained the title for the Gomez Brothers Racing camp, who consist of both his biggest supporters and his fiercest competition on the track. All three brothers (and Raul’s son Darian) drive UFO Fabrication chassis cars equipped with 40-inch Nitto Trail Grappler tires. These unique buggies are designed with a center mounted driver to maximize visibility in the rocks and have proven to be the vehicle to beat at King of the Hammers.
“Oh man, that was a race! Loren passed me like a bat out of hell, and I was like, ‘Man, I must be driving really slow.’” JP Gomez exclaimed at the finish line. “I got down to Outer Limits and there was Erik Miller, Jason Scherer, Cade Rodd and some other guys. Thanks to Jason for spotting me and letting me run over his car!” Despite passing 98 other race cars, JP Gomez was never physically in the lead during the entire race, although at times it appeared as nearly every other competitor had the lead before succumbing to issues at a race renowned for its brutality to man and machine alike.
Loren Healy and Jason Scherer traded the lead on the first lap of the race in the desert of Johnson Valley, with Healy in the lead with only two miles to the finish line before slowly rolling to a stop because of transmission failure. Casey Currie and Raul Gomez exchanged the lead on Lap Two in the notorious Hammer trails, but Currie succumbed to mechanical issues and Raul Gomez rolled his car, costing valuable time.
Brett Harrell was running up front all day and rolled his buggy as well, but the assistance of a co-driver in his two-seat buggy allowed him to right the car and continue at a much faster pace than Raul. “We put the car on its lid on Check Me Out,” Harrell confessed. “We lost about 20 minutes or so there. It was a pretty good day, I guess. The only thing better would have been to have won it.”
That honor sits with JP Gomez though, who joins the ranks of an elite group of Race of Kings champions; he is only the eighth person in the world to have claimed the honor in the event’s seventeen-year history.