By Jessy 'Rockstar' Greenland
Everyone that knows me, knows how much I love all things Jeep and racing. I also get to meet some pretty cool people in the industry. Damon Hopper was one of these cool people! I was introduced to him over the good 'ol facebook when I started racing last year for Dirt Riot. I was new to the circuit and wanted to ask a lot of questions and I was pointed to talk to some Texas Racers and RockCrawlers. I followed Damon and finally got to meet him last year at Trail Hero. We talked a bit and he told me he was going to be at Sema with his Rock Crawler/ Race Rig Bronco. His rig was featured at Sema which was a big deal. When I caught up with him at Sema, we talked about his racing at KOH (King of the Hamers) for the first time this year! I was excited, as I was planning to be there which meant, I could watch him race.

Let's get to know him as he takes his first journey to KOH!

"I bought JR's (John Reynolds) OG13 Bronco from the third owner in September 2019. On our annual trip to Trail Hero, I had planned to take Cindy's Bronco (since they wanted Broncos there) but my buddy Gordon sold it sooner than expected so I decided to take this car. I had never wheeled it, so I was curious and excited to see how well she performed. I was surprised to meet a few of the OG13 original racers and their out-pouring of comments about seeing this iconic rig back on the trails. We had a great weekend there, but it just keeps getting better. Fast forward after Trail Hero, I get a message from Bailey Cole to call his dad. He wants the OG13 car in the Ultra 4 booth at SEMA. I knew from conversations at Trail Hero that the 4400 class was the right class for this car if it competed at the Hammers, but I needed to meet JT Taylor to make sure they would allow it. Thankfully he did, but with a long list of safety items that needed to be addressed.

So this one man team with my helper Doug, took on a project that was much tougher than I ever expected. The shocks were gone and timing was so short but that battle was won. The portal axle ends were in dire need of being torn down, just another hurdle that my brother and I took on. As we did all the mechanical work, we tried as much as possible to keep the car as close to the original as possible. Even though things kept going south, we didn't throw in the towel. We just kept fighting to get there in spite of all the work that was needed and a few sleepless nights.

My Co-Dog was Jason Reeves out of Lake Havasu, Az. He is a spotter for his son Jacob Reeves (16 years old in the WE Rock Unlimited class) and Charlie Vacha (78 years young) and a Ford Bronco enthusiast (especially with the 427 engine that's in this car). I won the lottery getting him, and yep, poor guy was stuck listening to me on the coms LOL.

My pit crew was the best, with our lead man "Little Rich" Klein, Jacob Reeves second in command at 16 years old (more like 30 something in the pits), my son Colton Hopper, brother Darwin Hopper, Clay Browne, Brad Hunt, Brian Blank, Charlie Vacha, and Vorei Reeves (Jason's wife). The reason we were able to pull this off logistically is because of my wife, Cindy Allen. She coordinated all the "behind the scenes" prep work. She is why everybody got there, and that, along with registration, pit passes, flights and uber rides. She was the driving force that kept this team in swing and coordinating with all the Sponsors.

Although I competed in WE Rock in 2018 and won the East Coast Sportsman A Series, I have never raced or even tried to qualify until this 2020 KOH. The OG13 winning car was already grandfathered into the Hammers race so I hadn't initially planned to qualify because I didn't want to damage the car before race day. However, Bailey Cole strongly encouraged me to qualify in order to get the car seen and get the learning experience from it. That was great advice and well worth the effort.

On race day, I was nervous and I remembered what Jason Scherer told me about the starting line (its graphic lol) and I kept it down. As we pulled up to the start line, I realized that this is the stuff that dreams are made of. As we took off, the emotions were high and the beating of the car began. We are not in a fast car. We are in a fast 2007 rock crawler in the 2020 KOH race. If I say this course is rough, that's an understatement. We are here for history, the history of the 2007 winning car and the history of the sport. We are also looking forward to putting the desert behind us and getting to the rocks. We make it back to pit after Cougar Buttes, and we were in trouble. The transmission cooler had dumped a gallon of fluid out. and the car was overheating. My pit crew hard lined it and off we went till the transmission temp hits 250 degrees and we had to stop to let it cool down. This is why we blew through Backdoor, we were "mach2 with our hair on fire" trying to get our new cooler at the Hammertown pit. We almost rolled it two times in that short run, but that 427 horsepower did the job. We spent a lot of time in the main pit getting the new fan installed and changing out a damaged wheel. Reality was starting to set in as we were running out of time. Things just got worse when the power steering filter backed out. Again we were able to get going but both pumps were whining so we limped the car home. Our team motto had become "embrace the suck". It had carried us a long way but it was 9 oc'lock at night. After over a 100 miles of competing, our time at KOH 2020 was done.

Looking back at this, there is not one thing I would want to change. I am so proud of the unstoppable team and the best ever friends, family and sponsors. The 427 OG13 Bronco is now retired from racing and will be at the Off Road Hall of Fame in Las Vegas for 6 months. As for me, I am "one and done" from racing unless someone wants me in their car. And to whoever is reading this, if you have questions, look me up on Facebook and I will gladly answer any questions you have. See you on the trails.

We all had a journey of a lifetime and thank you all".

- Car Owner/Driver Damon Hopper

Racing KOH is the toughest race in North America! I am so proud of Damon and lucky to call him a friend and fellow racer! Just getting to that starting line knowing what is coming is not for the faint of heart! I cant wait to wheel with him sometime and learn from him!

Until next time!!