Marc McKenna and Dusty Van Meter will fire up their snowmachines Sunday in pursuit of something that has happened only twice in the history of the Iron Dog and never in this century -- a third straight championship in what's billed as the world's toughest, longest snowmachine race.
The entire field of 37 teams will face another stiff challenge: Completing the 2,000-mile race across Alaska on some of the worst trail in the history of the race, which started in 1984.
Riders expect to encounter dirt, open water and ice as they race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks. Unseasonably warm weather turned much of the snow to mush, and although low temperatures have returned, not everything is frozen solid again.
Trail conditions are so sketchy the Iditarod, which follows roughly the same trail from Willow to Nome, will decide Monday whether to move the re-start from Willow to Fairbanks. But Iron Dog officials rejected the idea of rerouting the snowmachine race.
The race will begin at 11:10 a.m. Sunday when the team of Robert Gardner and Andrew Milley depart from Big Lake aboard Ski-Doos. Ski-Doo produced four top-five finishes last year, including the winners and the runners-up.
Anchorage's McKenna and Kasilof's Van Meter will again ride Ski-Doos. They'll be the eighth team to leave Big Lake, right behind last years runners-up, Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson.
A victory would tie McKenna and Van Meter with two other teams that racked up three straight victories -- Scott Davis and Mark Carr (1997-99) and John Faeo and Dan Zipay (1986-88).
Van Meter teamed up with Carr to win the 2004 race, and McKenna won in 2008 with Eric Quam and in 2005 with Nick Olstad.
The winners, who should reach Fairbanks sometime Saturday, will collect $50,000 from a $126,000 purse. Another $122,350 is at stake in contingency prizes offered by various sponsors.
|1||22||Robert Gardner-Andrew Milley, Ski-Doo||2||13||Jason Gundersen-Josh Norum, Ski-Doo||3||10||Mike Morgan-Chris Olds, Polaris||4||18||Chad Gueco-Andrew Zwink, Ski-Doo||5||23||Brian Dick-Eric Quam, Arctic Cat||6||40||Arnold Marks Jr.-Archie Agnes, Polaris||7||8||Tyler Aklestad-Tyson Johnson, Ski-Doo||8||17||Marc McKenna-Dusty VanMeter, Ski-Doo||9||30||Kyle Conner-Jerrod Vaughn, Polaris||10||3||Doug Dixon-Mike Vasser, Yamaha||11||4||Tim Jauhola-Kyle Malamute, Ski-Doo||12||36||Archie Beetus-Ryan Folsom, Polaris||13||7||Aaron Bartel-Scott Davis, Ski-Doo||14||37||Mike Dropik-Marcus Jensen, Polaris||15||27||Tyler Delimont-Larry Jones, Polaris||16||21||Calvin Schaeffer-Gabriel Lie-Schaeffer, Ski-Doo||17||6||Andy George-Brad George, Ski-Doo||18||2||Shane Barber-Ryan Sottosanti, Polaris||19||20||Gabe Bunke-Scott Faeo, Polaris||20||31||Chad Dow-Tim Lessard, Ski-Doo||21||5||Chris Carroll-Ray Chvastasz, Polaris||22||9||Joshua Plumb-Jordan Starr, Ski-Doo||23||11||Tyler Huntington-Todd Palin, Ski-Doo||24||16||Todd Minnick-Nick Olstad, Polaris||25||24||Michael Donovan-Jens Hopson, Polaris||26||29||Russ Griffin-Chris Kruse, Ski-Doo||27||41||Cory Davis-Ryan Simon, Arctic Cat||28||32||Dick Divelbiss-John Witte, Ski-Doo||29||12||Roger Paradise-Eric Watson, Ski-Doo||30||25||Race Price-Erick Smith, Arctic Cat||31||34||Chris Collins-Lawrence Jones, Ski-Doo||32||35||Scot Demientieff-Devyn Walker, Ski-Doo||33||26||Jacob Hartley-Devin LaBarbera, Arctic Cat||34||15||Charlie Potter-Ryan Johnson, Arctic Cat||35||33||Mike Fuller-Eddie Kinn, Polaris||36||38||Doss Daley-Cory Easterling, Polaris||37||19||Steven Boney-Gux Laraux, Yamaha|