There we were, having a good time in Johnson Valley, California. It was the Saturday following the incredible drama and action of the King of the Hammers. It was windy as hell, the dust was in everyone’s eyes, and people were either packing up to leave or were already gone. But that didn’t stop a gang of gamblers from storming the scene and ruining everything.
In all seriousness, we were stoked to see the Gambler 500 carve out space at this year’s King of the Hammers. Set against the setting sun and wild winds, the gamblers arrived in their chariots, ready to do battle in the Hammertown infield during the much-anticipated HooptieX, or Hooptie Cross. It was a time trial just for fun, and of course, sending beat-up beaters aloft on a tabletop jump!
In all, there were about 30 cars looking to prove their worth (or lack of it). A crowd favorite was a white ’80s Corvette dubbed the “Vette Claw,” sporting White Claw-esque livery and a removed front clip, baring its dirty radiator for all to see. Another interesting specimen was a Fiero clad in the colors of Mexico (or Italy, it was hard to tell).
There was what appeared to be a RAV4 coated in fur, emulating the famous dog van from Dumb and Dumber. And I couldn’t call myself a true “exploder” fan without checking out the stars-and-bars-bedecked Ford Explorer Sport. One of my coworkers was there as well, racing in a Subaru sponsored by Titan Fuel Tanks and sporting a wheelchair on its roof. They were gamblers one and all, and all ready to lay it on the line purely for entertainment.
Unsure of the winnings but watching in rapture, I sat atop the ICON trailer with my trusty Canon, snapping and laughing as the beaters rolled by at top speed. The course got redefined as sunlight started to fade, making the laps faster and more condensed. It was finally perfect, with cars firing off faster.
I hopped off the trailer and made my way to the tabletop jump. Racers either made their mark here or drove off it in disgrace. You’d either be hailed a hero for “sending it” at speed or booed as a chump for letting off the throttle.
Fortunately, there were no crashes or injuries that occurred while I was there. Noting the rapidly dimming sunlight and my camera’s poor performance at night, I decided this would be the perfect time to bid Hammertown adieu.
The Gambler 500 HooptieX was a fitting send-off to the 2020 King of the Hammers. People gathered around the thrill and fun of motorsport, using their cheap ride to run around a track and see what kind of punishment their cars could withstand. We hope to see this become a Hammertown tradition in the years to come and look forward to covering the Gambler 500 again this summer.