The time has come, the usually quiet desert of Johnson Valley California has already begun its annual transformation into the epicenter of off-road racing. King of the Hammers 2023 presented by Optima Batteries is here! This year KOH is bigger and better than ever, with new classes, an extended schedule, and a new qualifying area, it will be a can’t miss event. Join Offroad Xtreme as we run through the need-to-know details for the two-week-long event culminating with the “toughest one-day off-road race in the world.”
King of the Hammers 2023 Schedule
All the action officially gets underway on January 26th with the gates opening for everyone to get their first look at hammer town. The first three days will feature the return of King of the Motos and from there we have two weeks of racing and festivities leading up to the 2023 Nitto Race of Kings. Besides the 4×4 rock acing and hard enduro moto racing, KOH encompasses desert racing, short course racing, Trucks, Buggies, Class 11 Volkswagen Bugs, and UTVs. So far, there are 976 registered entries amongst all of the classes. This year, they expect more than 80,00 spectators to flock out to the Johnson Valley, California lakebed.
2023 KOH Event Schedule
- 1/27 – King of the Motos qualifying
- 1/29 – King of the Motos racing ends
- 2/2 – Pre running opens (desert loop) with the Official map release, the KOH outpost opens
- 2/3 – Full course pre-running
- 2/4 – Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Presented by Monster energy Prologue
- 2/4 – Terra Crew 1400/1450 Rush
- 2/4 – Baja Jerky Class 11 showdown presented by EMPI
- 2/5 – Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Presented by Monster Energy for Limited Trucks and Buggies Race
- 2/6 – Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship Qualifying
- 2/6 – Great American Short Course Powered by OPTIMA Batteries Main Events
- 2/6 – Pit Crew Challenge Presented by Pro Eagle & Buggy Whip at Pro Eagle Booth
- 2/7 – 4WP Every Man Challenge Qualifying
- 2/7 – Holley EFI Shootout Presented by Action Sports Canopies & King Shocks
- 2/8 – Nitto Tire Race of Kings Qualifying, KOH Kids 170 Race
- 2/9 – Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship
- 2/9 – King of the Hammers Overland Experience Presented by Shiftpod
- 2/10 – 4WP Every Man Challenge
- 2/11 – Nitto Tire Race of Kings
Toyo Tires Desert Challenge: The Triple Crown
This year’s Toyo Tires Desert Challenge race will have even more at stake, The Triple Crown championship. This is a brand new three-race points championship for 2023. It comprises of King of the Hammers, The Mint 400, and The California 300. Additionally, Best In The Desert was forced to cancel their popular Parker 425 season opener, and KOH promoter Dave Cole invited them to come out and play. BITD has accepted the offer and integrated the Toyo Tires Desert Challenge into their 2023 series as an optional paying points event.
So to recap; KOH, Mint 400, California 300, and BITD are all playing ball to make this one of the biggest desert races with a large cash purse. With all the extra cash and bragging rights on the table, we can expect teams to hit this first event hard.
Following the same format as last year we will see the desert race split into two days. Day 1 will be the prologue for the unlimited racers. This shortened desert loop will determine the starting order for the main race. Unlike a normal qualifying session, the time for the 30-mile lap will be added to each driver’s total race time. While Sunday’s race can’t be won during the Prologue, it most definitely can be lost.
Terra Crew Rush 100
2023 will also see some new classes added to the racing action. Day 1 will also feature a bunch of limited-class racing. We covered this in the Off Road Xtreme article: King Of The Hammers Desert Race Welcomes 1450 Trucks And Class 11, so click over for more details. The new all-steel door slammers are going to be a great addition to the KOH lineup.
Who To Watch For In The Desert
With over 170 entrants registered for the desert race, it will be a stacked field this year. In the T1 class, Kyle Jergensen will be looking to repeat last year’s victory. We expect more challengers to come out of the woodwork. Dustin Grabowski Showed he could challenge the T1’s in his T2 spec truck at last year’s California 300 and could finish on top at this race as well. Speaking of T2 trucks, last year, Christopher Polvoorde took the win and placed 2nd overall. He is another truck to keep an eye on as the race unfolds. Polvoorde’s desert racing program really took off last year and is a likely contender for the win again.
In the UTVs, Mitch Guthrie Jr is sure to be a strong contender and will be on the hunt after a rough start at Dakar this year. His Red Bull Cam-Am teammate Seth Quintero will also be a front-runner hunting for a podium. Of course, it is hard to count Bruce Binnquest out any time he is on course. Coming off a great 2022 season might have the momentum out of the gates and going for big victories again this year.
Great American Short Course Race
Short course racing is back on the west coast and is coming to Hammer Town. GAS has chosen to start its 2023 season at this year’s KOH and it is an official points event. The first of nine rounds for 2023, this race promises to be an epic one. With tens of thousands of spectators on hand, I really can’t think of a better way to help revive the thrill that is short-course racing on the west coast. That is going down on Monday, February 6.
King Of The Motos
Nitto Tire Race of Kings
All the racing action throughout the 2+ weeks leads up to one thing, The Nitto Race of Kings. On Saturday, February 11, the main event of King of the hammers 2023 and the time for the 4400s to hit the course in “the world’s toughest one-day race”.
After years of using the same qualifying course in different directions, this year qualifying will take place at a new spot. Chocolate Thunder will be the deciding factor on where competitors will start the main race. This new twist will surely shake up the grid and should be something to see as the rigs go flat out of the huge boulders.
Who To Watch For In The Rocks
As with all KOH races, it takes more than a good qualifying run to make it through all four laps. Regardless of where they start, most won’t finish the grueling race. So, let’s take a look at some of the drivers who have proven themselves as ones to watch out for.
The Gomez Brothers race team is always a threat on the lakebed. With Raul taking the crown last year he will be charging hard to defend his title. But family rivalry is a real thing. Don’t be surprised if anyone from that family is standing on top when the dust settles.
Jason Scherer is another driver to watch. With three KOH wins and a second-place finish last year, he is eager to reclaim the top step on the podium.
Last year, Loren Healy and his Fun-Haver Bronco were the talk of Hammer Town with his unique line off a cliff at high speed during his qualifying run. This year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be a contender in the battle for the crown.
Other past multi-time Hammer King winners include Randy Slawson, Erik Miller, and Shannon Campbell. These dudes have some of the best programs in the sport, but that does not automatically award a win. There is a ton of talent out there piloting badass 4×4 rocket ships. It is hard to pick a winner, but I say keep an eye out for Jordan Pellegrino.
KOH Overland Experience Presented By Shiftpod
For the past several years, there has been a little-known secret going on just beyond the Hammertown and the KOH lakebed. OLAF Events has organized a special camping experience that offers well-organized fun and other exclusives during the week of Hammers. Shiftpod has been a big supporter and now is stepping up the interactive overland experience to present a full weekend of activities. Starting on Thursday, February 9, and stretching into the weekend, you can catch several instructional classes like a KOH 101 orientation, map and compass class, and a recovery course hosted by Warn Winches and How to Rebelle Rally.
They will also be leading rides out to some of the most popular viewing spots on the course during the races to help you catch all the action. A bunch of other activities is also planned like a potluck, as well as community bonfires to keep the good times going after the racing stops for the night. All this is taking place just outside of Hammer Town starting on the 9th so make sure you swing by.
How To Watch King of the Hammers 2023
Like most racing, the best way to experience King of the Hammers 2023 is live and in person. Tickets are available here and are good for the whole event. This will get you access to hammer town and the spectator areas along the course. It also gets you access to a ton of vendors and food to keep you fueled up during the week.
What Is Up With Hammertown?
At the center of all this action is Hammertown, the temporary city in the desert built on Means Dry Lake. It’s the beating heart of the 2023 Progressive King of the Hammers which includes race pits and over 150 vendors for parts, gear, food, and beverage. There are Jumbotrons for spectators to view the live race broadcasts, and Hammertown offers a festival-like atmosphere all day long, live music at night and many interactive experiences. The 2023 King of the Hammers is a celebration of racing and off-road culture, and Hammertown has become the place to be for off-road enthusiasts who come to enjoy the races and drive their own vehicles in Johnson Valley’s wide-open spaces. Below is a schedule of events and happenings taking place in Hammertown:
Thursday, February 2, 2023
- 12 pm Pre-running opens and course map released to registered competitors (desert loop clockwise)
- 12 pm KOH Outpost Featuring Sonora Brewing Company, Big Bear Lake Brewing Company, and Tiny Pony Tavern Opens
- 6:30 pm Caiden Brewer performing live at the Monster Energy Stage
- 8:30 pm Hollywood Yates live at the Monster Energy Stage
- 10:30 pm Matt Farris live at the Monster Energy Stage
Friday, February 3, 2023
- Pre-running full course open (desert loop clockwise)
- 7 pm Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Presented by Monster Energy Drivers Meeting, WARN VIP Tent
- 8 pm Live Music at the Hammertown Firepit
Saturday, February 4, 2023
- 7 am Toyo Tires Desert Challenge Presented by Monster Energy Tech and Contingency, Gate 3
- 6:30 pm TBA live at the Monster Energy Stage
- 8:30 pm A.D.D. live at the Monster Energy Stage
- 10:30 pm Guttermouth live at the Monster Energy Stage
Sunday, February 5, 2023
- 8 – 11 pm Great American Shortcourse Powered by OPTIMA Batteries Practice
Monday, February 6, 2023
- 7:30 – 10 am Great American Shortcourse Powered by OPTIMA Batteries Qualifying
- 11 am – 5 pm Great American Shortcourse Powered by OPTIMA Batteries Main Events
- 6 pm: Pit Crew Challenge Presented by Pro Eagle & Buggy Whip at Pro Eagle Booth
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
- 10 am Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship Tech & Contingency
- 6 pm KOH Kids 170 Race on the short course
Thursday, February 9, 2023
- 10 am – 4pm 4WP Every Man Challenge Tech & Contingency, Gate 3
- 6:30 pm Local Anthology live at the Monster Energy Stage
- 8:30 pm Spray Allen live at the Monster Energy Stage
- 10:30 pm Sublime with Rome live at the Monster Energy Stage
Friday, February 10, 2023
- 10 am – 4 pm Nitto Race of Kings Tech & Contingency, Gate 3
- 6 pm 4WP Every Man Challenge Race End
Saturday, February 11, 2023
- 6:30 pm Mama Foxxy & The Whiskey Gypsy Rebels live at the Monster Energy Stage
- 8:30 pm Matt Farris with Jared Blake live at the Monster Energy Stage
- 10:30 pm Chayce Beckham live at the Monster Energy Stage
King Of The Hammers Spectator Pro Tips
If you’re heading out for the first time, check out KOH’s FAQ page here for some of the basics. We also have a few tips that have helped us along the way at previous KOH races.
- Bring a neck gator. After a few days, the lakebed can get incredibly dusty.
- There will be little to no cell service on the lakebed so have your maps downloaded for offline use, OnX offroad has saved us a few times when we got lost in the sea of RVs and they currently have a 20% discount available if you’re not already a member.
- Apparently Verizon has decent service, but nearly 80,000 people are trying to use it. AT&T has a bush for an antenna.
- Bring way more supplies than you think you will need: Firewood, ice, food, snacks, drinks, water, and more firewood!
- Pack for all seasons and weather.
- Wear durable gear and expect it to get thrashed: Boots, overalls, coveralls, and other work wear. You can always separate the comfortable and the rookies by what they are wearing.
- Dress in layers: Outer shells, warm inner layers, beanies, gloves, sunglasses, or goggles.
- If you drive or ride in a UTV, wear a helmet or get a ticket.
- It’s always worth the drive out to Chocolate Thunder after the track goes cold to watch the crawlers go at it.
- If you’re heading to areas like Back Door or Turkey Claw during the race keep in mind that traffic through Hammer Town can take up to 30 minutes to get through, so plan accordingly.
- Hammer Town may have provisions, such as ATMs, hot food, ice vendors, and even a tavern with rotating craft beers.
KOH Insider Guide: Events And Happenings
Ride with the King: February 3rd
Ready to shred some dirt with the King of Supercross himself? Join Jeremy McGrath and the Maxxis team for a fun-filled guided SxS ride at the King of the Hammers on February 3rd. You can pre-register and get your name in the list by signing up here! This is a guided ride only. Attendees must bring their own vehicle and safety gear to be able to participate.
Baja Forged 2nd annual Desert Ranch Round-Up: February 4th
Hit some trails with Baja Forged for their 2nd annual Desert Ranch Round-Up on Saturday, February 4th. The all day event will include easy to moderate trails. TRAIL RUN – morning / HAMMERTOWN – afternoon / HAPPY HOUR – sunset / PIZZA BBQ – dinner / BONFIRE / MUSIC – evening. Eferyone is welcome but they ask for you to connect before hand.
Hyper Hour With Hyperco and Tread Lightly: February 7th
Free hot dogs and beer courtesy of Hyperco and Tread Lightly are available from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm in the Hyperco booth HH17, on Tuesday February 7.
PRP Taco Tuesday: February 7th
Grab some tacos courtesy of PRP Seats on February 7th starting at 5:30 pm. You can find them in Hammertown at the PRP Seats booth 100-103 on 4WP Way.
Ultra 3 Wheeler ATC 70 Death Loop Race Of Chaos: February 7th
This one is absolutely epic! Officially, unofficially not a KOH sanctioned event, @Ultra3_Racing has been known to organize some tremendously rad ATC 70 3 Wheeler racing. The big event is going down Tuesday night, February 7th. Look for the neon LED teepee tent in Hammertown Heights just outside of Hammertown proper the the south.
Baja Designs Night Ride: February 8th
Baja Designs will be hosting a night run on February 8th starting at 7:00 pm. All you need to do is meet at Gate 1 at that time and follow the lights. The plan is to pre-run from the lake bed to Soggy Lake.
Watch King Of The Hammers Live!
New for 2023, Hammerking Productions has created its own Youtube channel dedicated to King Of The Hammers. Along with that, besides the free content, there is also a membership subscription version that gets you access to Members-only live streams, a premium feed, and two bonus feeds: Multi-view, FPV, Drone, Scenics, and more all picked by the Live! team. If you are a KOH nut, and jonesing for live action, then you know what you need to do.
If making it out in person isn’t an option this year, don’t worry KOH has announced they will be live-streaming the racing action. It will be available on their YouTube channel, available here. It will also be a great place to keep up with any news that comes out before the races. Of course, Offroad Xtreme will have you covered as well with race recaps and highlights from all the action in Johnson Valley over the next couple of weeks.