EVENT: CAN-AM KING OF THE HAMMERS UTV RACE

Doing the Can-Am crush By the staff of Dirt Wheels

Hunter Miller, Kyle Chaney and Phil Blurton all led at some point. Here, Chaney leads Miller on the first pass down Back Door. Both co-drivers jumped out and hooked straps to the rear of the car to keep them from rolling. It worked, but jerked both co-drivers off their feet.

Polaris has pretty much claimed ownership of the UTV race that is part of the two-week rock-and dust-fest that is King of the Hammers. This originally tiny event held among friends has grown into an international happening, like the child of Burning Man and the Baja 1000. Despite the fact that the UTV class is the largest of the event, it still feels like something of an awkward stepchild. UTVs are more than accepted, but it is obvious that the organization reserves its passion for the big Ultra4 cars. We heard Jeep-owner course workers commenting on how fast the UTVs went through rock-wash canyons. It isn’t that they couldn’t do the same terrain in a Jeep, but slowly and nowhere near the upper-echelon UTV race pace. Can-Am is the UTV race sponsor, and the potent 2020 Maverick X3 RRs with 195 horsepower proved almost unstoppable, taking the top three places and having eight of top 10 finishes!

For much of the year, the dry lake bed—not one of the smooth flat ones—is empty. During King of the Hammers it draws over 40,000 racers, crew and spectators all camping everywhere.

It has been another assumption that rock experience is vital to win the KOH. Proven adaptable, Texas brothers Hunter and Cody Miller started on the East Coast in the GNCC series, but when GNCC dropped UTV classes, the pair headed west for the WORCS races, 

Mitch Guthrie Jr. and Sr. have owned this race for the past few years, and Senior was a solid fourth. Junior lost time changing an axle early, and that held him to 16th.
Third-placed Phil Blurton’s Can-Am X3 looked great at the start and stayed that way. He tucked all the body panels in to keep them from harm, and it worked.

a radical change in car setup, but the team already has a championship! The brothers nailed the top spots in qualifying, but that isn’t a shock. The qualifying lap is under 3 minutes for fast guys and has only two short rock sections. Qualifying is just for the start position, and hours on the 142-mile trail should leave enough time to come from behind.

They call this sort of racing “rock crawling.” Jeff McKinlay makes that name a lie on Chocolate Thunder. He was not able to complete the second lap.
Three Japanese brands have sport UTVs, and all three were represented. Honda’s two Jackson-turbocharged two-seat Talons are for this race alone. For desert events, Proctor Racing will start with four-seat chassis.

That wasn’t really the case. Cody Miller was fastest by almost three seconds, and he was followed by Hunter Miller, Kyle Chaney, two-time winner Mitch Guthrie Jr. in the first Polaris, and Nathan Wolf. The finishing results were remarkably similar. Fast qualifier Cody Miller struggled a little and finished ninth. That opened the door for Hunter Miller to win by roughly 3 minutes over Kyle Chaney, with Phil Blurton almost an equal gap behind. Guthrie Jr. had to overcome an axle problem early that left him back in traffic. He recovered for 16th place. His father, Mitch Guthrie Sr., is also a former winner, and he nailed down fourth and first Polaris. Nathan Wolfe finished fifth, right where he qualified.

Racing at the Can-Am King of the Hammers UTV race is so difficult that tough sections looked more like traffic jams on a SoCal freeway.

It was bantered about by those knowledgeable about the race and the competitors that 2020 could be the year for a Japanese-built machine to be a threat. The Yamahas and Hondas looked strong, but with 20 miles left to go, a rock-damaged front end stopped seven-time Supercross champ Jeremy McGrath while he was in seventh. Christopher Polvoorde in a Honda Talon was the best of the Japanese brands at 17th, but all three brands showed turns of fully competitive speed.

Even though most of the photos you will see of the KOH are massive rock gardens, a majority of the miles are normal desert routes. Jeremy McGrath’s almost-stock Kawasaki KRX 1000 liked the rocks best.

Casey Currie just made history as the first American to win the Dakar Rally UTV class, and no doubt he would have liked to be the one who first put a Can-Am on top at KOH, but it didn’t work out for him. He picked up seventh place. It was a wild year, and we fully expect that the class will grow for 2021. There were close to 140 entries, but only 33 machines finished both laps within the allotted time. Those are tough odds, but the addiction is real.

Any of you wonder if the co-driver is worth his weight in gold? Scott Lesage came back from this to earn 12th place. No doubt thanks to a co-driver who gives it his all. Left: That will leave a mark. This driver tried the Jeremy McGrath line, but he tried driving it rather than winching it like McGrath did. Looks like waiting would have been better.

2020 CAN-AM UTV KING OF THE HAMMERS RACE RESULTS

1. Hunter Miller, C-A, 04:29:44.201

2. Kyle Chaney, C-A, 04:32:24.935

3. Phil Blurton, C-A, 04:36:17.552

4. Mitch Guthrie Sr., Pol, 04:47:14.386

5. Nathan Wolff, C-A, 04:55:05.224

6. Trey Mckinlay, Pol, 05:07:21.644

7. Casey Currie, C-A, 05:08:49.996

8. Jason Weller, C-A, 05:28:07.029

9. Cody Miller, C-A, 05:30:34.249

10. Nicholas Turner, C-A, 05:36:54.780.

11. Blake Van de Loo, Pol, 05:42:16.003

12. Scott Lesage, Pol, 05:46:32.296

13. Austin Weiland, CA, 05:55:25.309 

14. Lanse Chournos., Pol, 05:56:29.031

15. Logan Goodall, Pol, 05:58:48.842

16. Mitch Guthrie Jr, Pol, 05:59:32.517

17. Christopher Polvoorde, Hon, 06:01:40.550

18. Richard Farmer, Pol, 06:04:46.948

19. Greg Uffens, CA, 06:06:34.369

20. Knox Griffin, Pol, 06:07:12.008

21. Raul Gomez, Pol, 06:13:44.313

22. Chip MacLaughlin, Pol, 07:11:18.838

23. Robert Butler, Pol, 07:15:44.752

24. John Duckworth, Pol, 07:17:49.047

25. Nathan Zollinger, Pol, 07:24:09.101

26. Eliott Watson, Hon, 07:29:19.485

27. Kristen Matlock, Pol, 07:39:52.378

28. Justin Barth, Pol, 07:40:21.534

29. Jeremy McGrath, Kaw, 07:42:15.531

30. JP Gomez, Pol, 07:58:28.090

31. Kyle Osborne, Pol, 08:04:49.074

32. Marcos Gomez, Pol, 08:06:41.516

33. Matthew Zeiler, Pol, 08:16:37.929

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