Although it’s just a few years old, the Toyo Tires Desert Invitational has rapidly become one of the most anticipated events of not only King of the Hammers week each year, but also the entire desert racing calendar. Thanks to both an ever-expanding list of eligible classes and sizable race purses, the event continues to establish itself as a crown jewel of the annual desert racing calendar, and a manner of kicking off KOH week that’s suitable for its own stature.
After Luke McMillin won the inaugural race in 2019 and Bryce Menzies swept the past two years of Desert Invitational action, a new name took his place atop the Sunday standings, with Kyle Jergensen conquering the prologue and three laps of racing thanks in part to mechanical issues that took out polesitter Menzies, Justin Lofton, and numerous others. Jergensen’s winning time of 4:50:45.981 was nearly seven minutes faster than McMillin in the premier T1 class, while T2 division winner Christopher Polvoorde sandwiched between them with a time of 4:55:45.904.
T2 trucks actually took a majority of the top overall spots, with Chad Dohrman and Dustin Grabowski completing the top five and all but three of the top 10 spots. Tim Herbst completed the T1 podium in eighth overall, while Adam Lunn and RJ Anderson teamed up atop the B1 division. When all was said and done, only 31 of the nearly 50 Sunday starters managed to complete every lap of the treacherous course.
The Limited divisions competed once again on Saturday, and while Chase Warren ensured that Class 10 remains the king of the battle with the UTV divisions, it’s no longer a sure bet for the future. B2 division winner Mitch Guthrie’s all-new Polaris RZR Pro R was just 4:43 off of Warren’s overall winning time of 4:16:39.716, and both B2 runner-up Wayne Matlock and UTV Pro winner Austin Weiland also broke the Class 10 hold on the top 10. Other Saturday winners included Travis Chase in Class 5U, Cameron Steele in TrophyLite, and Brayden Baker in UTV Stock Turbo.
Run between the two days of desert action was Saturday night’s Baja Jerky Class 11 Shootout, a short course race featuring dozens of Class 11 Baja Bugs and all-star appearances on the entry list from names like Larry Roeseler and Shannon Campbell. When all was said and done, though, it was Blake Wilkey who pocketed more than $10,000 for the race win, leading the 10-lap race from start to finish.
With the Desert Invitational in the books, the remainder of King of the Hammers week focuses on the rock crawling competition that made the Johnson Valley, California-based event famous. The Can-Am UTV Hammers Championship marks the next day of racing on Thursday, followed by the 4WP Every Man Challenge on Friday and Nitto Race of Kings for the headline 4400 division on Saturday. Live streaming is available throughout the event at ultra4racing.com.