2017 King of the Hammers
The King of the Hammers - From the dirt, a small town grows for nine days and then it disappears like a storied ghost town in a western novel. Not to be seen again until the same time the very next year. Its lore is much the same with word of mouth from those who experience it to those who haven’t. An unbelievable event is described and, until the listener or reader experiences it themselves, seems like a tall tale of someone’s wildest dream or drunken fantasy. To Monster Energy Drivers Shannon Campbell, Wayland Campbell, Bailey Campbell, and Casey Currie, the Hammers are no tall tale. For Shannon, especially, since he was crowned the first ever three-time King of the Hammers.
The week starts out early for all the drivers as all four drove in the King of the UTV race that took part on the same course as the King of the Hammers on February 8th. Bailey took an early lead at the 8am start as Shannon and Wayland took chase. Further back, Casey Currie started his UTV run in 65th spot. While Currie continued to pass other UTVs on course, Bailey got stuck at the Sledgehammer rock obstacle. Wayland stopped to winch her out. “We’re a family and a team,” he stated, “You can spare the time – it’s not an issue.” Ultimately, her UTV suffered a mechanical failure ten-miles before the finish and fell back to 15th from her 5th place start. Currie would drive all the way to 5th place. Shannon and Wayland would finish 1-2 with Shannon coming in first. This would only be a preview of what would come later.
For qualifying at the Hammers, the Monster Energy teams looked to try and dominate. Bailey qualified and started in the 24th starting spot. Shannon would come out in 9th starting spot while Currie would take the 7th, just behind Wayland in 6th. It was an impressive run for Casey Currie, who had to take a Last Chance Qualifying run to make it where he proved the truck has a lot in it when things go right. “It was a make or break deal,” said Currie about his run, “There were 140 cars that ran with 40 that had to go home and I wanted to make sure we were in the race. We pushed hard and didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to the car. We didn’t have a qualifying setup so I just drove the car hard in a race setup.”
To start at the front of the pack would mean to not have to deal with the dust of 120 cars ahead of you. Even, then, only 50 vehicles finished within the 14 hour time limit set by Ultra4. All four Monster Energy rigs saw the official checkered flag. While it seemed like a fast race pace, many teams would suffer mechanical issues throughout the day. Both Bailey Campbell and Casey Currie were no exception to this as well. While making her way to finish Lap 1 of the 3 lap, 188-mile race, Bailey’s rig struck a large object and sheered off the top ball joint nut of the left-front axle. Unlike Wayland and Shannon, her Jeep has a solid front axle so most spare parts won’t fit on her Jeep. This caused an issue that was resolved after finding a suitable replacement.
This, however, didn’t get her out of the woods as the replacement hub used a different brake caliper and didn’t allow her to use the one on the rig. Because of this, she rolled twice as the steering needs the engine to rev up while still in gear to pump fast enough to make corrections. Add in the lack of a left-front brake and you can understand how it could happen on the two rock obstacles she rolled on, Sledgehammer and Full of Hate. She managed to get to the next remote pit where her co-driver took her rig to the finish in 25th.
Casey Currie also hit a mysterious rock that ruin his day. “We had a great first lap,” said Currie, “no real issues starting in 7th. We didn’t run into anything until the 2nd lap.” It was then when the problem began to snowball as, first, a front swaybar link broke. Usually that isn’t a big deal until the other one breaks and it becomes and unwanted line lock. “On Fissure Mountain,” said Currie, “I noticed that the brake pedal was acting up and eventually it got to the point that it was sticking. My co-driver got out and found that the swaybar ends pinched the brake lines off. So, every time I pushed the brake, it would send pressure into the line but never release.” This locked the front brakes down on Currie and they had to make a trail repair. This got them going again until they arrived at Sledgehammer when a lower control arm got bent on the chassis side and its heim joint began to contact the front driveshaft. They made a jury rig repair on the feature to make it back to the next remote pit to replace the shaft and make a proper repair to the lower control arm. They were able to finish out the day in 14th.
For Wayland and Shannon, however, most of the day went as smoothly as the Hammers would allow them. For most the day, they stuck close to each other in 2nd and 3rd place, with Wayland only falling back once while in the pits for a winch replacement. “I went into the pits because I busted my winch in half. The rope was swinging and cables were laying everywhere. I pulled in and Jason Scherer (another competitor) took off past me because he didn’t stop for fuel or anything.” Wayland eventually pulled past him and Shannon physically, but Wayland was behind his father in adjusted time. He needed to make up more than 30 seconds to pull ahead of Shannon.
It just wasn’t meant to be, though, as Shannon pulled in with basically one tire still inflated but just behind his son by only 28 seconds. Shannon Campbell pulled off the first ever "three-peat" and became the 2017 King of the Hammers. While that’s something to take hold of for most drivers, Shannon’s a bit more of a family man, “It was fun,” said Shannon, “It was probably the best time I had racing in my whole life. Wayland and I were just going at it, tearing our stuff up, and neither one of us was giving up. I guess it was better for the crowd than it was for us, but I had a blast.” The most important part? “What meant the most to me was that he didn’t give up. That’s what I had been trying to teach him forever; don’t give an inch, make the other guys work for it and that’s exactly what he did.”
While it’s easy to look at a Monster Energy driver and think they live the good life where they don’t have to work for their wins or rigs, it’s quite the opposite. Each one of these drivers had to put work into their finishing spot. From Bailey making her repairs on the knuckle, to Casey hopping out with his co-driver to get the brakes unlocked, to even Wayland and Shannon fighting it out until the very end, these drivers worked and drove hard. Possibly harder than they needed to. However, that’s what the Hammers is about – taking on the toughest one day race and finishing in the end. Finishing first is a sweet reward, though, and now Shannon Campbell has three crowns to his name. What will the 2018 King of the Hammers bring? Who knows, but this story is going to be a hard one to top. Though, we thought that about last year, too.