Photos by Lona Scott, Mike Boyle, Eddie Martinez, Hilary Sparrow
Story by Hunter and Kimberly Sparrow
What do you see on the stage at King of the Hammers? You see joy, teamwork, and celebration. The culmination of what may be a decade-long journey. The start of a year of racing with points on the board. Here’s what you don’t see: the exhaustion, the preparation, the bills. Off-road racing for most families can be all-consuming, and that’s with only one racecar. Add a second car to the mix with most events having two races a day or two all-day races in two days, and you find the sheer dedication of this husband-wife team impressive. Hunter and Kimberly Sparrow call Loma, Colorado home, a quiet place on the Western slope. An acreage big enough for dogs, horses, and racecars, an unlikely combination.
Kimberly grew up off-road. Family friends tell stories of her being on the trail before being born and wheeling as a baby. Kimberly’s father had many off-road rigs but settled on a 1974 FJ-40, “Red Fox,” the bright red ’40 that he has wheeled for 30 years. Many family vacations revolved around off-roading in Red Fox. Family photos from Kimberly’s early life are in Moab, the Rubicon, or South Dakota. At the age of 14, Kimberly picked up her own vehicle. Described as “Baby poop brown, holes in the floor, and a bad hardtop,” it was a dream come true. A 1976 Toyota FJ-40 that remains today, and while it has many upgrades, it will always be her original FJ-40. Another constant has been her horses; since age 8, Kimberly has owned horses and been involved in the horse community. Balancing the two growing up was tough but a no-brainer when passionate about both.
Hunter will tell you he has a car obsession, particularly Toyotas, specifically the Land Cruiser. His first love was a 1972 green Land Cruiser that stranded him all over North Carolina growing up. Trying to convince a stubborn FJ-40 to run is likely why he is such a good and creative mechanic today. While his family had no mechanical background, Hunter was drawn to the mountains of North Carolina and the lifestyle of camping, hiking, maintaining his own rigs, and off-roading. He moved himself to Bryson City, attended school, worked in garages, and even hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. While trying to get as much seat time on whatever trails he could find, he met some other enthusiasts with the same passion and similar rigs. Eventually, the contingent decided that Colorado offered more wheeling opportunities. With enthusiasm and foresight only a lucky few possess, they loaded up and moved to Denver, where the two stories converge.
Serendipity brought Hunter and Kimberly together; the marriage brought Sparrow Motorsports. In 2009, Hunter watched his first King of The Hammers. Like many, a car was born from the experience with the goal to race the 2012 King of The Hammers. Once Hunter and Kimberly started dating, her first chance at co-driving happened at a Dirt Riot race in Cortez, Colorado. From that point on, keeping her out of the car was impossible; they were a team, and Kimberly was hooked. Hunter’s racing career evolved as he continued moving up the ranks with Kimberly in the co-dawg seat. Hunter needed a new race car to be more competitive at the 4400 level. “Wasabi” was the original; nobody wanted to get rid of her, especially since Hunter had built and designed her himself. So what do you do with an old racecar? You switch seats. Kimberly too
k over the driving for Wasabi in the 4800 class; Hunter would stay in the 4400 class in the new car.
“Always make your 8-year-old self proud.” That is the thought always in the back of Kimberly’s mind when she takes on new ventures. Couple that with her firm belief that every adventure is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you’ll find some fun and impressive accomplishments. Co-driving for Hunter for four years had taught Kimberly a lot, but it was still a crash course in driving a race car. Dirt Riot was a fantastic learning opportunity and some of the most fun races the team participated in. The atmosphere was encouraging, and the environment was supportive. Next up from the Regional series was KOH, in 2019 she made her debut as an Ultra4 4800 driver. Go big or go home, right? Out of time, Kimberly crossed the finish line, with Hunter co-driving, technically a finish in their world. Later that week, she co-drove for Hunter in the 4400 race. That race ended with a DNF due to a failed link. King of The Hammers is incredibly challenging and lives up to its legend as the world’s hardest one-day race.
In 2021 Sparrow Motorsports returned to KOH. With two seasons of regional races under their belt in both cars and some well-prepped racecars, it was time to try it again. In 2019, Kimberly podiumed in every race she started, with the exception of KOH. In 2020, she managed two top 10 finishes at the Ultra4 races in Tennessee and Moab. Hunter has been successfully climbing in rankings and hopes to finish 2021 with some top 10 finishes.
The first race day arrives. Kimberly started 35th and was making progress towards the front of the pack when an electrical issue almost took them out of the race. Some “McGyvering” got th
em out to Pit 2, where the team could repair the car to finish the race. Losing a few hours is frustrating, but Kimberly and Hunter still crossed the finish line. She missed an official finish by 6 minutes; officially, she finished in 25th place in the 4800 class, 1 of only 41 vehicles (in all classes) to make it to the checkered flag out of 134.
Hunter’s race, the very next day, had better overall results, but there were a few mistakes that slowed their race pace considerably. A flop in Outerlimits, a bad hang-up on Idle Issues, and a diff-out in King’s Graveyard all added up to cost a few hours. However, Hunter finished in time, in 28th place, a great start for the 2021 season. Between the two races, Hunter and Kimberly were in the car 22 out of 36 hours. Running two cars and co-driving for each other is exhausting, stressful, and strenuous, not to mention expensive. Keeping a race program moving can be a challenge, and running it with just a spouse presents additional challenges. That’s where preparationreally matters. On the field of battle, there’s no going back to the garage one more time, no more time in the gym. To compete at this level takes a full complement of training and dedication. Working on the program in front of the computer these days takes up as much time as in the shop, but Kimberly and Hunter love the path they have chosen and hope to continue pursuing motorsports for years to come.