Erik Miller Wins 2012 King of the Hammers - Video
Erik Miller of Cumberland, Maryland, earned the title of 2012 King of the Hammers Champion after tackling more than 150 miles of brutal course in Johnson Valley and besting a field of more than 160 drivers.
“We stuck to our game plan,” said an exhausted and emotional Miller at the finish. “We wanted to qualify well on Wednesday, we wanted to be in the top 10, and I think that was a big factor in the win. I’m happy that Dave [Cole] has moved toward a qualifier for starting position because I think it’s a lot more fair on how the field shakes out.”
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The qualifier was important since it gave teams who qualified fast a spot near the front, which can be crucial at this race where traffic jams on obstacles can slow the pace to a crawl. The field was also the largest ever, as promoter Dave Cole allowed the 61 racers who did not qualify in the top 100 entry into the event (their entry fees would also go directly to helping keep Johnson Valley open for off-roaders to enjoy).
“We qualified well, so we were able to accomplish that, and we were able to not eat dust all day,” Miller said. “The car was pretty near flawless – no flats, we had a little bit of an electrical issue with our fans, we were overheating, but we have two radiators so we could switch back and forth.”
"Right there toward the end we were swapping back and forth with Rick [Mooneyham] for the last 30 miles. He had a flat, we moved past him and we started to lose steering and had to pull into the pits. We filled the steering fluid and 200 yards out of the pits we had no steering, we dropped the belt. My co-drive hopped out, I hopped out, we had a spare belt so we changed the belt.”
Once fixed, Miller took off to catch Mooneyham and was able to pass him while he was stopped, but Miller’s troubles returned right at the end of the race, and from the top of Revolution down to Backdoor he lost steering again and had to fight the vehicle back down the final stretch of the course for the win.
After sitting just off the lead for much of the race and battling with Greg Adler (who unfortunately broke just seemingly within spitting distance of the finish line), Mooneyham was able to overtake Miller and Adler for the lead toward the end of the race but could not hold on and had to settle for second. Small missteps can mean the difference and King of the Hammers, and as Mooneyham explained the only real issues the team had through the day was “constantly changing tires and wheels when I crashed into rocks.” It was a bittersweet runner up finish, but he was pleased with the team’s effort in the race.
“The day was fun. It was long, long fight back and forth with these guys,” he said. “It was pretty incredible because now it shows how we’re getting a little more evenly matched.”
He said it was an honor to be in the hunt with someone like Shannon Campbell on their heels, and he credited Miller with good driving skills and that youth being on his side doesn’t hurt.
“We knew he would be fast because he’s a good driver and he’s young – that’s one of the pinnacles out here.”
Shannon Campbell entered the race with a great deal of excitement since he was going to be starting near the front of the pack instead of having to battle through the field as he’s done in years past. Somehow, he still ended up having to work from an unfavorable spot due to some confusion on the first hill climb at the start of the race (and Campbell wasn’t the only one to make this navigational error). The two-time winner of this race still somehow finished on the podium in third.
“I ended up in the back because I took the wrong turn. Dumb me, I mean, I gave up my good spot. Otherwise I coulda been up there in some fresh air,” Campbell said. “I got lost and I was driving around in circles and I asked them ‘Where the hell do I go?’
The confusion at the start put him off the pace, but he battled back in typical Campbell fashion, passing two drivers alone on the downhill section of Jack Hammer on lap one (much to the crowd’s delight).
“I thought there was no way I’d be in the top 10 for sure, but I guess this race is so brutal for everyone and the attrition is gnarly so keep on truckin’ and you’ll end up in there.”
He also credited his team for helping to keep his car running after beating it up on the brutal course.
“There’s some stuff that we broke out there and them guys fixed it, but I mean if you’d been strapped in there you’d have been squealing like a school girl. I can’t even explain how many things I hit at speed, going for rides out in the middle of nowhere, flats, just it was a long day.”
2012 King of the Hammer Finishers
1. Erik Miller - 6:03:51 (#4421 -Cumberland, MD)
2. Rick Mooneyham - 6:16:48 (#554 - Lake Havasu City, AZ)
3. Shannon Campbell - 6:33:40 (#5 - Gilbert ,AZ)
4. Derek West - 7:20:24 (#4420 - Springfield, MO)
5. Loren Healy – 7:22:05 (#4428 – Farmington, NM)
6. Brad Lovell - 7:26:23 (#232 - Colorado Springs, CO)
7. Brian Shirley - 7:31:53 (#18 - Dodge City, KS)
8. Rusty Bray – 7:31:54 (#4498 – Richmond, KY)
9. Mike Klensin - 7:40:58 (#4431 - Tucson, AZ)
10. Casey Currie - 8:16:04 (#2 - Anaheim, CA)
11. Ben Dinkins - 8:24:49 (#4403 - Annopolis, MO)
12. Jon Cagliero - 8:27:17 (#27 - Paso Robles, CA)
13. Brandon Watson - 8:32:544 (#488 - Carbondale, CO)
14. Jeff Russell - 8:39:10 (#4427- Shadow Hills, CA)
15. Ivan VanOrtwick - 8:41:08 (#4466 – Whittier, CA)
16. Ben Napier - 8:42:00 (#4461 - Sydney, AUS)
17. John Webb – 8:50:28 (#4468 Concord, CA)
18. Levi Shirley - 9:03:20 (#81 - Dodge City, KS)
19. Jason Scherer - 9:05:36 (#76 - Danville CA)
20. Alan Woodson - 9:20:43 #(86 - Charlottesville, VA)
21. Jason Blanton – 9:27:33 (#966 – Kirkland, WA)
22. Jeremy Dickenson – 9:34:49 (#4419 - Cedar Park, TX)
23. Harold Fijman - 9:38:50 (#777 - San Ramon, CA)
24. Alex Hardaway - 9:40:59 (#4481 - Santa Rosa, CA)
25. Nick Finch – 9:46:51 (#2228 Dean Park, Australia)
26. Lucas Murphy - 9:47:20 (#816 - Easton, MA)
27. Ritchie Keller - 9:47:24 (#202 - Elkland, MO)
28. Cottin Rodd - 9:47:48 (#4407 - Cortez, CO)
29. Scott Ward - 9:57:40 (#4438 - Lake Havasu City, AZ)
30. John James - 10:17:58 (#28 - Fresno, CA)
31. Jason Shipman - 10:22:00 (#4414 - Farmington, MO)
32. Hunter Sparrow - 10:23:20 (#72 - Arvada, CO)
33. Mat Noualy - 10:32:45 (#328 - Mt. Albert, ONT, CA)
34. Chris Garrison - 10:45:50 (#4494 - Rancho Cordova, CA)
35. Dave Bovich - 10:51:37 – (#50 - Shasta Lake, CA)
36. Les Figueroa - 10:59:24 (#4478 - Henderson, NV)
37. Fabio Manno - 11:21:07 (#100 - Rome, Italy)
38. Doug Evans - 11:24:58 (#4457 - Hayfork, CA)
39. Larry Anderson - 11:52:39 (#742 - Dixon, CA)
40. Matt Peterson - 11:54:41 (#212 - Colorado Springs, CO)
41. Robb Kaufman - 12:05:47 (#22 - RockyView County, CAN)
42. Paul Garner - 12:21:57 (#4409 - Queen Creek, AZ)
43. Bart Dixon - 12:57:47 (#26 - San Diego, CA)
44. Curtis Warner - 12:59:05 (#4410 - Armstrong, BC)
45. Brandon Heyes - 13:02:45 (#4558 - Rancho Cucamonga, CA)
46. Jesse Haines - 13:05:48 (#4499 - Sparks, NV)
47. Warren Thomas - 13:19:25 (#257 - Morro Bay, CA)
48. Tom Wayes - 13:33:45 (#321 - San Jose, CA)
49. Stan Haynes - 13:38:55 (#4408 - Ft. Wayne, IN)
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