Led by drivers Marc McKenna and Dusty VanMeter, 11 Iron Dog teams arrived in Nome on Tuesday, marking the halfway point of the 2,000-mile snowmachine race from Big Lake to Fairbanks.
McKenna and VanMeter, also the first team to leave Big Lake on Sunday, picked up a $10,000 prize for being the first into Nome at 3:15 p.m.
Less than three minutes behind were Mike Morgan and Chris Olds. Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad were third to arrive at 3:25 p.m.
While McKenna and VanMeter have never paired for an Iron Dog title, McKenna has won two titles and VanMeter owns three, the most recent belonging to McKenna when he teamed with Eric Quam in 2008.
There is plenty of championship experience on the second and third-place teams as well. Olds teamed with Tyler Huntington to win the last two Iron Dog races, and Minnick and Olstad combined for a championship in 2009.
According to race standings on irondograce.org, all of the top three teams began the 94-mile run to Nome from White Mountain just minutes apart, with McKenna and VanMeter leaving at 2:13 p.m., Morgan and Olds leaving at 2:18 and Minnick and Olstad leaving at 2:21.
All of the top three teams are clocking an average speed of more than 52 mph.
The eight other Pro Class teams to reach Nome on Tuesday were: Ryan Sottosanti and Andrew Zwink, Huntington and Tre West III, Todd Palin and Scott Davis, Doug Dixon and Wayne Wold, Chad Gueco and Tyson Johnson, Darrick Johnson and Donald West, Bob Jauhola and Tom Kriska, Archie Agnes and Arnold Marks Jr.
A mid-race layover has begun for all drivers reaching Nome, and the race will resume with an official restart at 8 a.m., Thursday morning.
Snowmachines will be placed in a heated impound area where drivers will schedule inspections and repairs. The race is expected to end Saturday afternoon in Fairbanks.