By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Rock Stars - Local Mountain Crawling Enthusiasts Tackle King Of Hammers Race
1-25 OAK Buggy
Team Faultline 4X, including (from left) Troy Stone of Winton, Mike Samaniego of Farmington (front), Chris Hill of Modesto, Chris Madsen of Modesto, and Corey Williams of Oakdale, will tackle the King of Hammers off road race in early February. - photo by CAROL STONE

If you have to learn to crawl before you can walk, then you certainly have to learn how to rock crawl before you can tackle anything quite like The King Of Hammers off road race.
Oakdale resident Corey Williams will ride shotgun as navigator for a five-man race team at the Sixth Annual Griffen King Of Hammers in Johnson Valley in early February.
Williams joins a group of local rock crawling aficionados on team Faultline 4X for a quest to take part in a grueling 165-mile race across the desert and rough mountain terrain. It’s a test of mechanical prowess, physical endurance, and extreme willpower against one of the toughest race courses ever conjured by man.
“Some people say this is the most ridiculous race you can do,” Faultline 4X founder Mike Samaniego of Farmington admitted on Monday. “You will spend between $50,000 to $100,000 on a race with a cash prize high enough to maybe pay for a couple of tires. But it’s not about the money.
“It’s about who can take a vehicle 165 miles across hell in the shortest amount of time.”
Williams and Samaniego are joined by Troy Stone of Winton, Chris Madsen of Modesto and Chris Hill of Modesto on team Faultline 4X.
The five rock crawling enthusiasts have labored tirelessly and emptied their pockets to build a buggy capable of withstanding a grueling chase across dry lakebeds and rocky hills. They will compete against teams with corporate sponsorships and the experience of having competed in one of the five previous King of Hammers or similar desert (Baja) races.
It will take an incredible performance just for the locals to make it past two days of qualifying races, but the team has a few tricks up their collective sleeve. All five members of the team have extensive rock crawling and off road experience.
“We want people to know that a bunch of average guys from Oakdale, Winton, Farmington and Modesto are good enough to hang with the big boys,” Samaniego said. “We put all of our ideas into this car, and hopefully that will pay off.”
The King of Hammers is one of eight races of its style to mix desert racing with the rugged landscape of mountainsides, but is the biggest and most anticipated event for the rock crawling community.
The race spanned 130 miles a year ago and saw a top finish in six hours and 20 minutes by racing legend Shannon Campbell, who became the only driver to twice win the King of Hammers.
If team Faultline 4X can finish top-20 after two days of qualifying amongst a field of over 75 cars, they will join Campbell and other highly renowned off road drivers in a quest for the King of Hammers crown. It’s an incredibly difficult task that is riddled with daunting obstacles, but the local team is salivating at the opportunity to pit their skills and talents against the very best.
“We want to be rock stars,” Samaniego said. “We are right at the bottom of something huge and life is too short to not give it a shot. We built this car so we could all have some fun and it is turning out to be more than we imagined.
“It is crazy and it is insane and I don’t think many people understand us, but we want to risk it all to play in the desert on something that we all built together.”
And the risk is real. Last year only 40 of the 100 qualifying cars finished The King of Hammers. The action propels vehicles up sheer cliffs and cascades down intense drops. If a vehicle gets stuck, other buggies can climb over it. The team member riding shotgun is expected to hop out of the car and help rig a lance on nearby rocks if the buggy needs to be pulled out of trouble.
“The car will be on the worst road imaginable and your body will suffer all kinds of punishment over a period of possibly 10 hours,” Samaniego said. “If you lose focus then you can end up breaking the car.”
Team Faultline 4X will compete with a custom made buggy built from scratch resting on 42-inch sticky rock-crawling tires and powered by a 5.7-liter motor typically seen on Corvettes. The car is expected to peak at around 95 miles per hour with the capability to best the toughest of mountain terrains.
The team will take on qualifying runs on Feb. 7 and 8 with hopes of reaching the starting lineup for the King of Hammers on Feb. 10.
The team operates on a budget provided by their own pooled funds and the sponsorships of several local businesses. For more information on the team and details on how to sponsor their run to the King of Hammers, contact Mike Samaniego at 209-649-3425 or visit