2016 King of the Hammers
You could say all the seat time I had in my car last season was really helpful but the last few months my family and I have been working in the shop non-stop to make sure our cars were 100% prepped for this race. My car, before the new year was completely stripped down. It needed some major repairs on the chassis (easy fix) and its first powder coat had finally come! I believe being in the shop every day to tear my car down and rebuild it has truly helped me learn every part. This year on the lake bed I was not expecting to do any major prep on it but after pre-running it just so happened that we needed to. At the beginning of the week I had broke an axle trying out a new trail I have only heard crazy stories about. This trail just so happened to be Sledge Hammer which has not been raced on in a few years. My co-drivers Terry Madden and Ryan Miller did an amazing job spotting me through this rugged rock trail during pre-running but between my car and the plaque line, they didn’t get along very well. We all hustled back to the pits and evaluated what we were going to do to my car. Wind had picked up by the time we got back and dust was flying up underneath the trailer. It would be a messy job to take out an axle and put a spare in, but it needed to be done. After about an hour we came to the conclusion that not only did the axle need to be replaced but so did the ring and pinion to prevent any future problems when it came to race day. Luckily we had amazing help from ARB and Currie Enterprises. It is so awesome to know you have sponsors who want to dive in and help no matter how much work needs to be done. I can’t thank them enough.
As Thursday night came quickly we took one last glance at my car to make sure we weren’t missing anything. All panels were buttoned up, tool bags were packed, seat belts were adjusted, lug nuts were torqued, spare fluids were strapped down and everything was tightened. Now all that was left was a good night sleep.
We rose around 5:00am, my mom packed our camel packs, I slapped some butter on a piece of toast, grabbed helmets along with neck restraints and drove through hammer town to put my car in line. After one last picture with my whole family, I took a deep breath and within every minute we inched closer and closer to the start line. Seconds before the green flag dropped to send us out for what would be approximately a 9 hour race, my co-driver Terry Madden and I gave a quick fist bump and braced ourselves for a long journey through the desert.
At the beginning of lap 1 we had hit a wall of dust that lasted for miles across the vast lake bed. It slowed us down quit a bit but we managed to keep a steady pace and watch the GPS closely for when we had to take our first turn into what became the roughest part of our day. I have never been a big fan of being stuck behind someones dust because the feeling of not knowing what you might run/drop into is stomach dropping for me. But I think this year I overcame that feeling. I was able to concentrate on passing someone and not totally freeze up thinking I might flip the car if we came up on a big g-out or the path I was making wasn’t smooth enough and ended up not being able to make the pass.
Going on to lap 2 Terry and I went in a little blind sided. Earlier in the week we did not have enough time to run all the trails due to our axle replacement and other repairs. Surprisingly we had no issues and we came out with just a few scratches.
Lap 3 came around, we did a quick check in main pit and headed to Backdoor. Up above we spotted my dad Shannon Campbell who was temporarily down, replacing a broken rear axle shaft. Another competitor was attempting to make the climb and a spot was available next to him to make a clean winching pass. Terry hopped out of the window and started pulling my winch line. The best part about this moment is that not only did I have Terry helping me but I also had my dad helping me the whole time not even thinking about working on his own car in order to finish the race. It was really cool! Within ten minutes we were able to make a pass climbing Backdoor, Terry showed off his clean sliding skills on my hood and through the window to get buckled back up in his seat and continue onto the next rock sections. (If you would like to see a video of our Backdoor experience go to Dirt Cinema’s Facebook page www.Facebook.com/DirtCinema.)
Terry and I were starting to feel the whooped out desert sections and bumps from every single rock on the trails. We were constantly hydrating and Terry was feeding me fruit snacks. We had come so far and we still had so much more ground to cover before we could finally relax our muscles and take lots of tylenol. After coming down Jackhammer my car would finally feel the jagged rock trail that I had been dreading coming upon all day, sledge hammer. The one trail that had given me a few issues from earlier in the week. My co-driver Terry and I came up on the plaque line and found my brother Wayland Campbell helping another competitor, Raul Gomez. Raul had moved over and given me space to try and maneuver over this fierce line. After a few tries I was not able to make it over and we had to find some way to winch me over to move on. By now I had help from Wayland and another competitor, Levi Shirley. We all worked together and what felt like forever in that one canyon was actually only a few minutes. Now I had Levi Shirley, my dad Shannon Campbell, Raul Gomez and Jason Shipmen all lined up behind me to also take on the climb. Of course they did not have any issues…! We all went on to battle for the finish with only a few more rock trails ahead of us and some desert to cover. The last two rock trails, Spooners and Outer Limits seemed like they took forever. Terry pretty much walked in front of me the whole time to make sure we were picking the smoothest lines while I tooted along behind him. We wanted to make it out of the trails with no issues and we surely did.
With an overall time of 8:45:18 we finished in 5th place! I never imagined placing in the top 5 at King of the Hammers, and My co-driver, Terry and I did it! It’s truly amazing and I can’t thank everyone enough who helped me get this far. Especially the best pit crew I could ever ask for. They worked there butts off to make sure my whole family finished this race! Also my parents, brother and uncle Nick for all the support! I would also like to thank all of our sponsors; Nitto Tires, Monster Energy, Currie Enterprises, Turnkey, Advance Adapters, ARB, Hughes Performance, Rugged Radios, Howe, Fox Shox, Southwest Ground Control, Dynomax, Grizzly Coolers, Justice Brothers, Mastercraft, Walker Evans, Arrowlane, Motive Gear, WARN, Powertank, Ron Davis Radiators, QTM Brakes, KC Hilites, Pac Springs, Tireballs, Arizona Driveshaft, Dirt Skins, Allstart Electric, SDHQ, Custtom Coaters of Mesa, Ultraseal, Arizona Undertakers.