Jason Scherer Makes History As The First Back To Back King

They say that nice guys finish last, but Jason Scherer flew in the face of that cliché by making history as the first back-to-back winner of the Nitto King of the Hammers powered by Optima Batteries (KOH) and taking his third crown. Friendly and articulate, Scherer is a successful business owner who has been off-roading his entire life.  He first won King of the Hammers in 2009, when the event was in its infancy.  For the next decade he tried to build a better mousetrap and find the formula to repeat that early success.  Well, he found it.

A week of racing in Johnson Valley in front of 50,000 rabid fans and 2,000,000 online viewers culminated with Friday’s Nitto King of the Hammers powered by Optima Batteries.  Covering 235 miles of punishing desert terrain and some of the most difficult rockcrawling trails in the world (aka The Hammers), KOH has a reputation as being one of the most difficult races on earth, pushing man and machine to their breaking point, and beyond.  Attrition was as high as ever, with only 26 of the 111 competitors reaching the finish line within the 14-hour time limit.
Jason Scherer is a perennially fast qualifier, starting on the front row at KOH for the last six years in a row.  This year he qualified second behind Nick Nelson.  Like Mitch Guthrie Jr. in the Can-Am King of the Hammers UTV Race presented by HCR and Casey Gilbert in the 4WP Every Man Challenge, Scherer leveraged that clean air to stay ahead of the field and avoid traffic jams in notoriously difficult trails like Jack North and Full of Hate. And like Guthrie and Gilbert, Scherer’s combination of preparation, vehicle prowess, team support, and raw driving talent combined to allow him to win the 4400 race for the second year in a row.
None of this is to suggest that Scherer’s victory came easy in the six hours and 32 minutes it took him to complete the race. “It was pretty busy from the first corner all the way through the desert,” Scherer noted at the finish line. “It was everything you could ask for from the pressure from the other drivers, to the obstacles, to how awesome the car ran. You can’t imagine how awesome it is when everything works together.”
“I built this car with money that my mom left me when she died, so there is someone
watching over us. Racing is a family thing. Your friends are here and everyone is supporting
you. It’s the best high ever. It doesn’t get any better.” ~ Jason Scherer
Several drivers contested for the lead early in the race, but Scherer had a near perfect day to beat Erik Miller by five minutes.  Miller, a two-time king greeted his team, wife, and one-month old baby boy at the finish line.  “I’m really proud of this sport, with the amount of people who are here (in Hammertown). I’ve never seen more international fans, or people here camping. It’s an absolute zoo,” Erik stated after the race.
When the dust settled, the results read Scherer, Miller, and Shannon Campbell. The podium was almost identical to 2018, only in 2018 it was Wayland Campbell who rounded out the podium in third instead of his dad, three-time king Shannon. “Wayland was running second on the last lap, and they said he might be getting close to Scherer, and then next thing you know, I heard them trying to reach camp to get a replacement a-arm,” Shannon remarked.  “I got it when I was in the pit and took it to him, so hopefully he can finish.  That thing was heavy sitting on my lap!”
#127 Thorpe / Peters. Photo by Kathy Durrett
Three Australian teams hit the track for the main event at the King of the Hammers. Making his debut at the event in 2015, Queensland’s Mitch Thorpe returned with his #127 Aussie built Ultra 4 for another crack, this time with Tuff Truck competitor Mark Peters in the navigators seat. Thorpe would have plenty of punch under the hood of the Alltech South chassis, with a Russo Performance 410ci V8 delivering the grunt to the Johnson Valley.
#103 Hummer / Cooper off the startline. Photo by Paolo Baraldi
Three time Outback Challenge winners, Chris Hummer and Neil Cooper made their debut in the #103 Team Dynamic Jimmy’s Ultra 4 formerly raced at KOH by Mal Van Ysseldyk & Nick Finch. The well sorted machine was equipped with King Shocks and Spidertrax diff housings with ARB lockers.
#326 Roadrunner Offroad launching out of the blocks. Photo by Paolo Baraldi
Joining them on the start line was Barry Smethurst and James Hayes, who traded their all conquering Roadrunner Patrol for the #326 Twisted Customs Ultra 4 rolling on 42″ Maxxis and powered by an 6.2 litre LS V8.
#127 Mitch Thorpe put the hammer down in qualifying. Photo by Paolo Baraldi
Qualifying saw Thorpe lock in 51st on the grid, ahead of Hummer in 79th and Smethurst in 96th.
#103 Hummer / Cooper. Photo by Kathy Durrett
#103 Hummer / Cooper threading the needle through the rocks. Photo by Paolo Baraldi
After 3 laps of torture in the rocks #103 Chris Hummer and Neil Cooper were the first Australian team home in a time of 10hr 24min 29sec, rewarding them with 15th outright. Mitch Thorpe and Mark Peter’s quest to complete unfinished business at King of the Hammers was a success, with the #127 crossing the finish line in a time of 11hr 18min 53sec. An issue with an kinked in tank fuel line cost the pair time on the opening lap, but once that was sorted they powered home to 18th outright. Hummer and Thorpe’s final placings jumped by 1 and 3 places respectively from where they finished on the road, after 3 cars were penalised post event for skipping some of the rock trails.
Roadrunner Offroad. Photo by Kathy Durrett.
While the Roadrunner Offroad #326 of Barry Smethurst and James Hayes pulled out all the stops in an attempt to finish. Replacing a diff trackside before having to call it a day on lap 3 with a traffic jam in the rocks halting their progress and leaving them no chance to finish within the DNF time.
As the 2019 Nitto King of the Hammers 10 p.m. cutoff time closed in, it was clear once again that just to cross the finish line is a respected achievement in the toughest one day off-road race.
#127 Thorpe / Peters. Photo by Paolo Baraldi