On race day, Mother Nature took the desert floor of Johnson Valley, California, and whipped it like a housekeeping maid would a blanket, coating everything and everyone in a layer of dirt. Still, spirits were high as the Can-Am UTV race took place here at KOH 2021.
This year marks the 12th anniversary of the UTV race. In those 12 years, UTVs have gone through a number of advancements and emerged as a rising class for beginners and experts alike. Perhaps that’s why the UTV race has the largest number of competitors this year, compared against any of the other events during KOH Week – 113 in total.
The race is two laps, following much of the same course lined out for the Every Man Challenge and King of the Hammers. So these smaller machines had to tackle almost every foot of terrain that their larger 4×4 brothers have to, including the treacherous southeastern mountain section, where many of the checkpointed Hammers were located.
…And They’re Off!
Coming out of the desolate northwest sector, Phil Blurton #944 had a decent lead. Following him was #52X Ronnie Anderson and #912 Brock Heger. This was still the first lap, and barely at the halfway mark. Red dots on the RacingTraX website marked what appeared to be DNFs; the early victims of broken components, bad luck, or both. Among them were #214 Robert Stogner and #218 Dan Wyrick.
Coming into race mile 70, Ronnie Anderson looked to have a healthy lead. #17 Jay Shaw was in 2nd, while #33 CJ Greaves was in 3rd. Greaves was holding his own out here in Johnson Valley.
Ronnie Anderson kept his lead up as he started lap 2, the final lap. But he got passed by Shaw and #191 Kyle Chaney coming into Race Mile 80. The order was now Chaney, Shaw and Anderson. Things were getting dicey as the race leaders got to Race Mile 85; Chaney still had 1st place, but could he keep it against Shaw and Anderson hot on his heels?
The crowd was gathering at Chocolate Thunder. The racers would come down CT, where normally racers came up (during EMC and KOH). Coming out of RM 85, Shaw was in first as Chaney fell back to 4th place. Blurton was 3rd and Anderson was 2nd.
These four horsemen of the race-pocalyose traded places as they made their way into the southeastern mountains. The first into the gate was #191, Kyle Chaney. He didn’t have any close followers, it looked like. Next through would be Shaw and Anderson.
Chaney made good time as the following four (Miller, Anderson, Blurton, and Miller) got stuck winching out of Jackhammer. Chaney was still in the lead as he made his way through Fissure Mountain. Miller had second place, albeit a ways behind Chaney. Blurton was in 3rd, and Anderson was in fourth. There was significant separation between these racers as they made their way through the mountains.
The mountains descend into the open desert on the final stretch. Miller was in 2nd, and Chaney was in a healthy lead. Blurton wasn’t too far behind. And so it came that Chaney blazed into Hammertown taking the win, and following him were Miller and Blurton in that order.
The Winners’ Circle
A point of pride at King of the Hammers is actually completing the race. Among a field of 113 competing teams, only 46 made it across the finish line. The first three – Chaney, Miller, and Blurton – each bore the wear and tear that this brutal course exerts on drivers.
Chaney already took a win earlier in the week at the Toyo Desert Challenge, and here he was again stepping out of his Can-Am UTV. “Right from the get-go, we were up in the mix,” said Chaney. “‘I wanted to make it through the desert loop. It had a bunch of nasty chop in it and I knew making it through that part of the course was going to be key today. I knew I could get through the rocks. But the desert was going to be tough.”
The procession of yellow Can-Ams continued as Cody Miller rolled up to accept 2nd place. “I was headed up Jackhammer and I saw Kyle coming down and I knew at that point that he had a very serious lead,” he said. “We pushed really hard, but we couldn’t catch him.”
Miller is the brother of last year’s UTV winner, Hunter Miller, and will prove to be a major contender at future races. “King of the Hammers is just a great team event,” Miller said. “You know, a lot of the races that we run are just the driver versus the driver. Out here, it’s team versus team, all the way from the pits to the passenger seat. It’s a major group effort.”
In 3rd place, Blurton proved he could withstand the tortures of Johnson Valley and still make it to the podium. This was a back-to-back 3rd place from 2020 to today. Despite losing a tire (and the jack to get the car off the ground), it’s remarkable that Blurton still managed to get 3rd place. “We had to pull up on a rock to get the tire off the ground and get it swapped out,” he explained.
Here are the official results and times for each of the top 5 teams:
- Kyle Chaney 3:47:54.885
- Cody Miller 3:59:49.390
- Phil Blurton 4:07:24.587
- Ronnie Anderson 4:08:49.953
- Jay Shaw 4:18:17.330
UTVs will continue to be a mainstay of King of the Hammers, and we look forward to seeing this class grow in other forms of motorsport. Stay tuned for our other King of the Hammers coverage, including the Every Man Challenge and King of the Hammers main event, coming soon!