Palin-Huntington out of Iron Dog; tight race unfolds

AnchorageFebruary 17, 2014 

The Iron Dog's most famous racer is out of the race. 

Todd Palin and partner Tyler Huntington scratched Monday afternoon, not far from where the 2,000 mile snowmachine race began on Sunday. Palin is a four-time champion from Wasilla who has an extended fan base due to the popularity of his wife, former Gov. Sarah Palin.

The pair scratched at Shell Lake, a little more than 100 miles from the Big Lake starting line. A Facebook post on the race website said they encountered mechanical problems.

They're missing a heck of a race.

Eleven minutes separated the top five teams Monday afternoon in Galena, some 650 miles into the race.

Arriving in a virtual tie were Mike Morgan and Chris Olds, who have led since the beginning, and Marc McKenna and Dusty Van Meter, the two-time defending champions.

Both teams checked in at 4:45 p.m. Then things got interesting.

Morgan and Olds resumed racing, with the Kaltag checkpoint 98 miles ahead of them. McKenna and Van Meters declared an eight-hour layover, which is the last mandatory break they need to take before reaching the halfway point in Nome.

Morgan and Olds made it to Kaltag at 5:45 p.m. and declared their eight-hour layover.

Three other teams were right behind the co-leaders in McGrath.

Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson arrived at 4:52, seven minutes behind the leaders. They opted to stay in Galena for eight hours. At 4:46 p.m., the teams of Shane Barber-Ryan Sottosanti and Cory Davis-Ryan Simon arrived, with Barber-Sottosanti moving on and Davis-Simon opting to stay.

Barber-Sottosanti reached Kaltag at 6:07 p.m., one minute ahead of Andy George and Brad George, who were 21 minutes behind the leaders at Galena.

The team of Davis and Simon is an intriguing one. Davis is the son of seven-time champion Scott Davis, and his only previous Iron Dog was 2011, when he did it with his dad.

This year, Cory is racing with Simon, an Iron Dog rookie from Alberta. Call them the X factor -- as in X Games. Cory is a four-time medal winner and Simon is a two-time medal winner in snowmachine events in the Winter X Games.

The Iron Dog began Sunday at Big Lake and ends Saturday in Fairbanks. In between are 30 checkpoints, including one in Nome, where everyone must take a 24-hour layover.

Palin and Huntington are one of five teams that have already scratched, leaving 33 teams in the race.


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