Only fifteen years old, high school freshman Melvin Wade IV is the youngest racer to ever compete at King of the Hammers. On Wednesday he’ll be pulling off the line in the KOH UTV race. It’s no wonder that Mel is starting at young age; his father is Mel Wade III., owner of Offroad Evolution, founder of JK Experience and no stranger to King of the Hammers himself. Dad is racing in two classes this year; the Smittybuilt Everyman’s Challenge and the King of the Hammers Ultra4 class in his Jeep Wrangler JK. The younger Mel has been around the off road world his entire life, so it’s in his blood. I first met him seven years ago on a trail run with his parents so it’s wonderful for me to be here to see him make his debut at King of the Hammers. His grandfather, Mel Wade Jr., was the first competitive racer in the Wade family and is also here at Hammertown to cheer his family on.
I had a chance to catch up with the younger Mel and his family during a rare moment of downtime. When I asked if he had time for some photos while they were out here, he offered to drive me out to the lakebed in his race rig. Helmet hair is well worth getting to ride shotgun with an up and coming star! As his sister, Harley, taught me how to work the seat belt and door, I asked her when she was going to race, “She’s too scared,” her brother told me. We chatted as best we could over the roar of the UTV during the exhilarating ride. When I asked him if he was nervous or just excited he said "both" and that what he was about to do didn’t really hit him until they pulled into Hammertown. He said his dad originally was going to put him in Jeep TJ but decided on a UTV instead. Dad bought the rig bone stock and built it to be clean. When I asked the younger Mel how fast a racing UTV is he told me that a stock rig will do 80mph.
High speed racing in the desert creates a lot of dust. Mel showed me the hose that hooks into his helmet that allows him to breathe fresh air. He had broken something while out riding the day before and his dad wasn’t happy about having to make repairs so soon before the races, so Mel Jr. was being extra careful not to break anything during our trek. His mother Lisa said she’s nervous and worried about him (as any mother would be), the risk of injury is high in this sport. But she’s obviously very proud of her son! His dad said they’ve been preparing for this for years and his son is ready. He said that he just wants him to finish and take his time, but his son wants to drive fast and tends to be a little reckless. Judging from my conversation with his son today, I don’t think Dad needs to worry. Mel Wade IV is a smart young man with a good head on his shoulders, and he’s had years of mentoring from one of the best. Good luck out there this week to father and son! We hope to see the younger Mel Wade make history as the youngest ever winner at King of the Hammers. The only thing that could top that would to see both Mels winning their classes.
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