Shannon Campbell Wins 2011 King of the Hammers

Feb. 11, 2011 By Josh Burns, Photos by Josh Burns and Jaime Hernandez
Chocolate Thunder was one of the many obstacles racers had to scale during the 2011 King of the Hammers. Photo: Jaime Hernandez

The rock-crawling, desert race hybrid race that is King of the Hammers brought thousands out to Johnson Valley, California, for what has become the premiere rock-crawling event in the country. There were well over 10,000 people (15,000-20,000 is not a stretch) at the event, with figures at the driver’s meeting the night before the race at 8,000 spectators, which doesn’t include race teams and crews.

Check out the 2011 King of the Hammers Photo Gallery

Racers who made it to the main event via the LCQ were given these cool billet "Golden Tickets" at the drivers meeting the night before the race. Photo: Josh Burns

The King of the Hammers event seemingly continues to grow and grow. So does the legends it creates within the off-road community. Estimates were close to 200 vehicles attempting to enter the 2011 race, but only 100 were able to get in via qualifying or the Last Chance Qualifying (LCQ) races leading up to the event. 
 
Shannon Campbell started 62nd but still worked through the field to earn the 2011 King of the Hammers victory.

Racers would cover two 60-mile laps to complete the race. The course would take the rock-desert-prepped vehicles to the open desert for miles at a time, and then racers would tackle miles upon miles of the treacherous rock climbs for which Johnson Valley is known.

At the end of lap one, it was Randy Slawson in the 4448 car leading the field. The 2009 Hammers winner Jason Scherer was the second vehicle to complete the first lap. Not far off, however, was Shannon Campbell, the 2008 winner of the event. Campbell’s spot in the top three was impressive considering his 62nd starting spot in the morning.

GenRight Off Road owner Tony Pellegrino earned a solid second-place finish.

Although not everyone would be in contention for the race win, most racers were simply satisfied to shoot for a top 20 finish. With all that the King of the Hammers race can throw at you, simply finishing is a feat in and of itself. That’s why Shannon Campbell’s performance at this year’s race only added to his legend. Starting off the line in the 62nd spot, Campbell worked his way up through the pack. He and Scherer battled back and forth through the race, but Campbell was able to avoid any serious issues and bring home the win as the only racer to earn two King of the Hammers victories.

“I’m happy as hell. I’ve been working on that one for the last two years,” Campbell said at the finish line about earning his second King of the Hammers victory. “I’ve been wanting to get a win in this car, and it proves that A-arms are the sh*t.”

King of the Hammers Video, Part 1

Campbell said he was fortunate to have no major issues during the race other than his driveshaft rattling at high speeds, which limited his ability to really battle with Jason Scherer in the open desert as much as he would have liked.

“My driveshaft vibrating at 50 and up, that’s where Scherer kept getting me, and when we’d get on the straightaways he’d eat me up,” he said. “When we were in the rough I could run it because this thing is pretty dicey through the tight stuff. So I’d make up time in the rocks.”

King of the Hammers Video, Part 2

Other than catching up to others racers on the course, the two-lap format seemed to suit the two-time Champ just fine.

With a tower of victory hats on his head, new sponsor Goodyear being one of them, Shannon Campbell spoke about his second King of the Hammers win at the finish line.

“There was traffic, and most of them were broke and friendly enough, and [when] I was coming around on my second lap most people kind of moved over and let me by,” Campbell said, while noting that the course was pretty chewed up by the second lap. “The trails over there at Outer Limits, it is tore up. There’s broke stuff everywhere.” 

Able to get by Jason Scherer to earn second place was Tony Pellegrino, owner of GenRight Off-Road.

“So, we drove our race today,” Pellegrino said. “We could always see a little bit of dust in the distance, and Jason Scherer is back there leaking bad, but he’s still trying to go. Saw a lot of good drivers on the side of the trail out there … what a day.”

2009 King of the Hammers Champ Jason Sherer knows he might have pushed it a little too hard at times, noting he hit about 120 mph in the open desert during the race. Though mechanical issues slowed him to a crawl, he was still able to cross the finish line in third.

Limping across the finish line was last year’s winner Jason Scherer, who battled throughout the day with Campbell but was unable to earn his second win before him.

One young lady was especially happy to see her father, Jason Scherer, make the podium with third place.

“Everything just worked out great. We had a good time,” said Scherer, with his daughter on his lap during the finish line interview. “I probably had the most fun I’ve ever had racing Shannon out there. I don’t know if he said anything yet, but we were going across that lake bed and I looked over at the GPS and I saw 120-something. I couldn’t keep from getting sideways and all of the sudden the wind picked up and I was just driving in a full drift like 15 feet away at 120 mph, got him, got around him, turned up the hill and I looked down and I’m overheating … so I had to back off. We went back and forth like that three or four times, and it was really great. It was a fun day overall.”

Finishing in fourth place was Randy Slawson, who had to cut off part of a seat belt to make a gasket for the thermostat housing. The team even traded parts at one point with fifth-place finisher Greg Adler to finish the race.

Racers battled into the night to complete the two 60-mile laps. Photo: Jaime Hernandez"We just tried to set out pace, knew it was a long race and we thought we could reel some of these guys in," Adler said. "We stopped for a flat tire – actually, the guys right behind us, Randy Slawson let us use his spare. We did a little trading – we traded our camel backs full of water, which they needed for their engine, for a spare tire, so we were able to get in. Once we got out in the open desert some of the faster guys got by us, some guys were charging back a little harder, and we caught a few people back in the rocks."

2011 King of the Hammers Results
1. Shannon Campbell – 6:11:54
2. Tony Pellegrino – 6:42:51
3. Jason Scherer – 6:49:50
4. Randy Slawson – 7:01:13
5. Greg Adler – 7:09:40
6. Tracy Jordan – 7:35:17
7. Gary Feravanti – 7:27:25
8. Matt Messer 7:28:42
9. Les Figueroa – 7:39:03
10. Ben Napier – 8:15:16

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