NHRA To KOH: Building A UTV To Go Racing
Building a new race UTV can be difficult process, but for full time NHRA crew chief, Jon Schaffer the process is the same.

Racing is racing, but for some, the experience of racing in the dirt and at an event like King of the Hammers is always a dream. For full-time NHRA crew chief Jon Schaffer, growing up in California, the dirt was always calling before moving to Indianapolis to follow his career.

“I have been in some form of racing my entire life,” Schaffer said. “That’s all I know. From racing go-karts, late models, to formula Fords, then working on Top Fuel and Funny Cars for NHRA drag racing.” 

“Off-roading has always been my true passion. Once I heard about King of the Hammers back when it first started, I knew that this type of racing was for me, and I would want to hopefully someday make that dream a reality.”

There was a high level of detail put into this build.

Due to the NHRA racing schedule, Schaffer could never make it out to King of the Hammers. In 2023, NHRA pushed the start of the season back a month, opening the door to head out to the lake bed.

Hearing the schedule change, Schaffer knew it was time to race King of the Hammers and started working on his Can-Am in March of 2022, less than a year before the event. 

“Originally, I bought a Can-Am Maverick x3 from Casey Scherer, Jason Scherer’s brother,” Schaffer explained. “I went out and messed around with it a few times.”

This may look like a 4400 Ultra 4 car, but underneath is a Can-Am.

“After a few months of owning the UTV, I took the entire car apart to see how it was built, as I can never just leave stuff alone. I have to always try to improve and make things better. Once it was apart, I realized that I wanted to build my own chassis and car.”

Over 650 hours into the building process, the UTV has been completely revamped and made to look like a scaled-down 4400 class car.

“I really enjoy the entire build process from designing to the fab work, welding, electrical, and  plumbing,” Schaffer said. “That part is just as fun as driving for me, but if I have to choose just one part, it would be the final assembly and the end of the build.” 

As the car nears completion, the team gets ready for testing.

“It’s really rewarding to see these cars come to life after all the hours and sacrifices that have been put into building them. Once you sit back and see what you have built with your own hands, that’s the most satisfying part.”

Stay tuned as we follow Schaffer as he finishes the build and tests later this month before finally heading out to the Johnson Valley lake bed to take on the 2023 King of the Hammers.