This was my 8th consecutive year to race King of the Hammers and this year’s KOH was interesting!
KOH is the “Superbowl” of off-road racing. It is a weeklong of activities leading up to race day. Over 100 of the top drivers from around the world are here to compete in the worlds toughest one day race. Everything needs to go smoothly the entire week!
We had some challenges with my car during the week (new shocks, transmission went out, u-joints broke & steering went out), but we were prepared and got them all to cooperate by my big race on Friday. Unfortunately, it meant I had to start from the back of the pack in 113 position out of 124 total cars.
This year’s race course was a little different running in the opposite direction from years past. The biggest difference was the first 6 miles were brutally rough and very few options to pass… So, I put on my game face and Chris Rea (my new co-driver) and I fought hard from the back (still convinced we could win from there).
We got a good clean start and the car felt great! We immediately started picking off cars and passing them one by one. Since we should have qualified in the top 20, we were now mixed with much slower cars. During pre-running I had seen a passing line at race mile 2 going up a hill out of Hammertown and we were able to pass 3 cars which would give us our momentum for the rest of the day!
The rest of the first loop was dusty, but we were able to push all the way up to 21st physical place. Lap 2 was tougher, as the race course led us into the rocks and it was much harder to pass.
By this point in the race drivers were getting hot and tired and making big mistakes. We had a car roll right in front of us at the top of Wrecking Ball which resulted in a temporary race course closure while course officials got the car turned back over. This one incident added about 45 minutes to our time.
So far I was able to pilot the car very cleanly with no real issues. We only stopped to pit for fuel or not at all. On lap 3 we have to run 3 extra trails that are more challenging, plus you and the race car are more beat down!
We stopped for fuel and 2 tires one last time and ran in hard to the finish line!
At the end of the day, we passed 102 cars for 11th place. It did not get me on the podium, but it was just as satisfying and super fun!
The big news this year was my son Jordan (4500 Class) who got the fastest qualifying time on EMC qualifying run time in on Tuesday (winning the KMC Hard Charger Award)!
Then on race day starting 1st in his class but 71st off the line, he passing almost the entire field on race day to cross the finish line 1st, but officially get second on adjusted time. Still a great finish for an 18-year-old young man!
This is Jordan’s 4th year racing KOH and second year in a row to finish 2nd place in the EMC 4500 Class.
I also want to mention that I am incredibly proud of both my boys (Jami Pellegrino & Jordan Pellegrino) for prep’n their cars themselves and doing so well in their respective races on such a brutal off-road race! More importantly for this year, all 3 of us finished our races!
We had over 50 people (family & friends) out this year to help and cheer us on.
I feel very fortunate to be able to do this with my boys, it is such a great learning experience and character builder for them. Because I believe if you can muster up what it takes to finish a race like this, everything else life throws at you is a piece of cake!
I am so blessed and humbled, to be in a position to race an Unlimited Class Ultra4 car with the greatest drivers in the world and have support from industry folks like yourself. I truly appreciate your faith in us and we love every second of being there for 11 days.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that I got up the next day and lead 100 Jeeps around the desert on the Official GenRight KOH Experience too!
Special thanks to: My crew chief Darren Ruzicka, Team manager Jim Woods, Brian Maxwell, Mark Fechner, Chris Calkins, Eric Pender and the rest of my pit crew who all did a fantastic job with lightning fast pit stops for all 3 races! My wife Debbie Youngers Pellegrino for supporting me in my quest for the KOH crown!
Videos from the race: https://www.youtube.com/user/GenRightMagic100/videos
Tony Pellegrino’s Facebook Fan Page here: https://www.facebook.com/tonypellegrino4485/