The fourth running of the Toyo Tires Desert Challenge marked the 2022 King of the Hammers opening event. Since adding this race to the lineup, only two drivers have finished victorious with Luke McMillin taking the first year and Bryce Menzies claiming the top spot in the last two years. All eyes were on these two as the weekend got underway. Would Menzies continue his domination? Could McMillin tie up the trophy count, coming fresh off the Baja 1000 win? Or perhaps a new fierce contender may be favored by the desert’s Hammer Kings!
Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Prologue
The format for this one-of-a-king and desert race featured a prologue lap to determine starting order. Having the trucks re-rack after the first lap meant there was no room for a bad qualifying run with the lap time being added to the total race time. Due to heavy dust plaguing the prior day’s UTV and Limited Race prologue, officials stretched out a 5 min starting gap for each of the T1’s and T2 trucks.
The 34-mile high-speed loop featured fewer technical sections than the main 80-mile course but still offered plenty of challenges for both drivers and machines. This included large elevation changes as well as Johnson Valley’s rocky terrain that would guarantee not all starters would cross the finish line.
As the rigs left the line it wasn’t long before the desert claimed its first truck. Raul Gomez had a tire go down in the first few miles. After getting the tire changed, Raul pulled back out on course right in front of the next truck that left the line, Luke McMillin. With neither racer giving way and now bumper to bumper, both trucks started the climb up Heartbreak Hill. As they reached the summit, only Raul made the crest. Caught in the dust on the narrow line, Luke high centered the truck seemingly losing his shot at a repeat win.
The Prologue Would Determine The Race Start Order
With the trucks cycling through, the T1 racers showed that their horsepower advantage over the T2 spec trucks would be a huge factor in the race. The T1 trucks took the first eight spots of the prologue and the clear leader was Bryce Menzies finishing almost a minute and a half faster than the next truck. Kyle Jergensen was that next truck followed closely by Justin Lofton. The first spec truck to come across the line was Christopher Polvoorde. The prologue came to end, but a late appeal to the officials gave the 83 of McMillin a chance to rerun his lap putting him into the race starting in eighth.
Toyo Tires Desert Challenge – T1, T2, and B1 Prologue
Toyo Tire Desert Challenge Main Event
Unlike the Prologue lap the main race was a side-by-side start with one-minute gaps. This shorter start gap was evident by time the trucks hit the first remote pit about 14-miles out, with the trucks already starting to bunch up and passes being made. With the trucks now clearing the pits, third-place qualifier Justin Lofton was not in the pack with a transmission issue siding his race. Lap 1 would also dash Bryce Menzies chance at a three-peat leaving him stranded out in the desert with a broken upper link and driveshaft, unable to complete the first full lap.
Lap 1 now concluded and the times tallied, the field had sorted itself out with some trucks showing that they would be the ones to lead this race. Kyle Jergensen pulled way ahead and was leading the pack both physically and in total time. Luke McMillin was second fastest with Eric Harden about five minutes behind.
As the race continued, it was Lap 2 that brought on a new set of surprises. The T2 spec trucks began overcoming their horsepower disadvantage and started making up some serious time on the race leaders. While Jergensen continued to lead overall, the second and third places belonged to Christopher Polvoorde and Dustin Grabowski, both driving T2 trucks. Tim Herbst was also making up some time and had moved into 4th overall, despite rolling over a couple hundred feet from the start of Lap 2.
Race Winners And Top Finishers
The final lap was all about reeling in the #27 of Kyle Jergensen, but no one could, and he finished 1st overall. Despite #83 Mcmillin clocking the fastest lap of the race on the final loop, Polvoorde was able to take 2nd overall as well as a T2 class win. With that fast last lap, McMillin was able to close seven spots and finish 3rd overall.
The Toyo Tires Desert Challenge – T1, T2, and B1 Desert Race
Running the day before the trucks the UTVs were the first to debut this grueling course. Despite only 230-miles to cover, the Limited Class would have almost forty DNFS throughout Saturday’s race. For UTV’s the new Polaris Pro R’s driven by Mitch Guthrie and Wayne Matlock were the ones to watch, to see if they would be capable of finishing ahead of the Class 10 cars on this rocky course.
Overall, the new Polaris’s took 2nd and 9th with Guthrie ahead of all but one Class 10 car. Pro UTV was led by Austin Weiland with a class win and 10th overall. Second in class Kyle Chaney with Ryan Piplic finishing only 90 seconds behind. Stock classes didn’t fair to well on the tough track with only 3 stock turbo UTVs finishing the race and none of the stock N/A cars were able to finish.