The 2023 4WP Every Man Challenge (EMC) proved to be the ultimate test for more than 150 teams and their racecars in three different classes at the 2023 Progressive King of the Hammers Powered by OPTIMA Batteries. The rugged 143-mile Every Man Challenge racecourse was made up of a lap of high-speed rugged open desert with a second lap of tire-shredding rocky canyons. Drivers and co-drivers pitched themselves and their vehicles against steep climbs, bottomless sand, and boulders as big as a Fiat 500.
When the rigorous dirt and rock exam was over Jeremy Jones had earned an A+ on the test. Jones had skillfully piloted his Class 4800 Branik Motorsports Legends (4837) racecar to a first place overall win and 4800 class victory at the 2023 Every Man Challenge with a time of 4 hours, 42 minutes, and 52 seconds.
At the finish line, Jeremy Jones told us, “We could’ve lost the race a couple times while we winched out of a bad spot. And I caught a kicker out there somewhere we thought compromised our driver-side front wheel, so my pit crew changed it. These wheels are bomb-proof tough, but I just didn’t want to take a chance. We have done that before, split a wheel in half, and it ended up costing us several positions.”
“Winning King of the Hammers EMC has been a goal of mine since back when we started watching this almost 10 years ago. Finally, it paid off and this is incredible.”
Highly Competitive 4800 Legends Class
Some of the most competitive racing could be found in the 4800 Legends Class. Fellow 4800 class drivers Scott Foley (8) and pole-sitter Craig Allen (75) were running second and third at the end of the first lap. Jeremy had been able to work himself up to fourth from his start at sixth.
Another 4800 driver Brent Harrel (56) had come up from a starting position of 21st to leading the pack on overall elapsed time as they all headed out on the rock lap. Harrel kept up a furious pace but got stopped in Jack North for some time with a flat tire. Harrel said, “It was rough out there, the first loop was pretty quick. Then on the second loop, we had quite a few technical issues. But we had a good run going.”
Foley was still running up near the top, and Cody Young had moved up from a start in 10th to second by the time the leaders were in the rocks of Sledgehammer. During that last and most destructive lap, more cars began to suffer damage and slow down. Jones and Young traded leads once or twice. Jones eventually worked his way past Young (who soon fell far behind) and into a good lead to take the checkered flag for the overall win and first in the 4800 class.
Scott Foley (75) crossed the 2023 Every Man Challenge finish line second overall and second place in 4800 Legends class driving his racecar (almost 20 minutes behind Jones) to an elapsed time of 5 hours, 1 minute, and 54 seconds.
This was 4800 driver Scott Foley’s 11th King of the Hammers and his first time on the podium. Although he felt sick the entire day, he said, “This is the one race that means the most to me. I was coughing all day, but I just had to power through it. The EMC puts everybody into a really tight group and all these guys have been racing together for a long time. It’s fun, competitive, and affordable.”
Dan Fresh was in the mix for most of the race, having some trouble mid-race, but recovered to finish 3rd in the 4800 class and 6th place overall. 2023 is his 6th Every Man Challenge. He’s won four times, podiumed six. “The EMC is such a tough race. Compared to a lot of the other races I run, like the Baja 1000, this is the toughest race for me. It beats my body. It beats the car. You know, you don’t just have desert, you’ve got big boulders. I mean they throw everything at you at this race. So I think that’s the main reason I keep coming back.”
EMC 4500 Mod and 4600 Stock Classes
Duane Garretson (26) was thrilled to be on the podium after clocking an elapsed time of 5 hours, 16 minutes, and 17 seconds. Getting a third EMC overall and first place in the 4500 Yukon Gear and Axle Modified class made for a good day. “The race went really well. I have the best team and the best co-driver. I don’t think he (co-driver) dialed me back but maybe one or two times. I just kept telling myself we need to keep the tires on the car, and we need to keep moving forward.”
“We’ve been out here a bunch of times, and I knew we had the talent and the parts and the cars. This time it all came together and worked great!”
4WP Every Man Challenge was conceived as a way to bring grass-roots racers and stock vehicles into the King of the Hammers experience. It has also attracted the attention of major automotive companies and some of the top racers in the sport.
First place in the 4600 Currie Enterprises Stock class and fourth overall was Loren Healy in his Fun-Haver Ford Bronco. Healy conquered the desert and the rocks handily, posting an overall time of 5 hours, 19 minutes, and 27 seconds. Healy shared driving duties with Vaughn Gittin Jr., taking the wheel for the rock lap after Gittin put the Bronco in a good position during the desert lap.
This was a repeat for Loren Healy. Healy said, “We now have back-to-back wins for the Fun-Haver Ford Bronco. It’s unbelievable what this Bronco can do. We were passing the 4800s and the 4500s all day long in this stock class truck. It’s unreal!”
Second in the 4600 class and fifth place overall was fellow winning Bronco driver Brad Lovell. Brad’s brother Roger was co-driver. Brad and Roger have been mainstays in King of the Hammers and Every Man Challenge. The duo brought their beefy Ford Bronco across the finish line in 5 hours, 21 minutes, and 26 seconds. “It was a sprint race from the very start, back and forth with Vaughn and Loren all day, I think the farthest we were apart was one or two minutes the entire day. We led the whole way right up until we had to hit pit two for a tire change, that let Loren get by right us.”
“Then we both had flats after that, that gave them the jump to get out there. It’s a great competition, those guys are really quick, and congrats to our Ford Performance teammates for taking first.”
Bailey Cole replaced an axle shaft in the middle of the race but was still able to post a third in 4600 class and 17th overall with a time of 6 hours, 45 minutes, and 4 seconds.
Troy Digby (4514) drove a modified Jeep to a second place 4500 Yukon Gear and Axle Modified class finish and 10th overall with total time was 5 hours, 46 minutes, and 10 seconds. Taking a third place in the 4500 class in the 2023 Every Man Challenge was Peter Doolan (353) with an elapsed time of 7 hours, 9 minutes, and 46 seconds. Both Digby and Doolan were part of the inaugural rookie program, which are competitors who have never driven a vehicle during a King of the Hammers event.