Shannon Campbell is part of a very small family of Ultra4 racing drivers as one of only four drivers to win two King of the Hammers – doing so in 2008 and 2011 in his innovative independent front suspension machines. What used to be so rare has now become nearly the normal build. We see more and more independent front suspension rigs come out every year but Campbell was the innovator of this design for Ultra4. This makes racing in the open desert portion much easier as it’s far more predictable and nimble. He proved that this design is still fast even in the rocks by qualifying in 4th position.
Wayland Campbell, Shannon’s son, was next to challenge the Hammers under the family’s flag. His debut in 2011 at the Ultra4 American Rock Sports Challenge showed he had potential and, just like his father, now competes in a single seater IFS rig. This is actually Shannon’s 2015 rig, so it’s a known performer. His 8th starting position would only hinder him for a brief moment.
Casey Currie would set a time in qualifying and start in the 11th. He also competed in the Every Man Challenge from the day before, but had to retire. However, it was now time to get ready for the big race and things can change in an instant. Drivers can retire in their first race and come back to win in the big show the following day but the opposite can be true as well. Drivers can even break both days as nothing is predictable when you’re on the Hammers.
Finally, Bailey Campbell, Shannon’s daughter, would start in 33rd position. Most would assume that anything further back than 20th position would guarantee that drivers wouldn’t see the front of the field. Fortunately, this is never true. Bailey would bank on her experience from 2015, her debut race in the King of the Hammers, and fight her way forward.
Casey Currie’s day started off fairly well after his 8:02 AM starting time. By 9:51 AM, just under two hours, he had completed Lap 1 and was well on his way to Lap 2, which he completed by 12:30 PM. Upon passing Clawhammer on his third and final lap, he hit a rock too hard and broke his drive shaft. Casey would try to fix it to no avail and retired to be pulled off the course at about 4:00 PM. Two events in a row, Casey Currie retired and would not finish but that is how the Hammers fall.
Wayland Campbell was having a better day than Currie. He stayed in the Top 5 all day and even touched on 2nd by Lap 3, even with his dad hot on his heels. The race was really looking good for the Campbells as all three were in the Top 5 and even in contention to have them all on the podium. As if having the very first IFS was history making enough, but to have three members of the same family on the podium would have been even more impressive. However, it wasn’t meant to be and Sledgehammer took out a driveshaft on Wayland’s rig. While waiting for a replacement shaft from the pits, he would help other competitors, including Shannon and Bailey, winch up Sledge to help them secure a finish. Fellow competitors, Brian Caprara and Chris Hoyt, would end up getting his driveshaft in time to finish the King of the Hammers in 15th place with a time of 11:33:26.
By gaining help from Wayland and with coaching by her co-driver, Terry, Bailey would finish the 2016 King of the Hammers in 5th. That, compared to finishing 23rd in 2015, is an achievement in itself as she crossed the finish line after the cutoff time then. This year, she didn’t have to stress out trying to make it before the cutoff time as she had over five-hours to spare with her finish time. For 2016, Bailey set the history books for female drivers in KOH as the highest finishing woman in the history of the 4400 Class. “That was a rough ride,” she said after getting out of her straight-axle two-seater white Monster Energy rig.
While Shannon eventually finished in 4th Place this year, it still didn’t mean he had a cruise of a race. Shannon was one of the Top 5 drivers who would flirt with a podium all day, sitting between 2nd and 4th place until the Lap 3. That is, until he arrived at the infamous Backdoor and broke his right rear axle shaft. He was passed by multiple drivers including both Wayland and Bailey. He was very quickly losing positions as he was repairing his axle shaft. After the repairs, he pushed his rig to its limit and amazingly fought his way back into 4th position and finished just under three minutes after 3rd place.
The 2016 Nitto Tires King of the Hammers powered by Optima Batteries was not an easy or grand event in the scheme of things. This, however, is just the first event of the 2016 Ultra4 Racing season in the 4400 Class. There are two regionals to run and the Nitto Tire National Championships in Reno, Nevada in October. While this year’s King’s Crown was not attained, there is still the bigger prize at the end of the year with a 4400 Championship on the line. Then it won’t be long until the 2017 King of the Hammers, where the Monster Energy drivers will once again battle for the throne in Johnson Valley.