A field of 38 teams will race for the $50,000 first-place prize in the 30th anniversary edition of the Iron Dog, the snowmachine race across Alaska that is the longest and toughest in the world.
Marc McKenna of Anchorage and Dusty Van Meter of Kasilof will ride Ski-Doos as they attempt to defend their championship. McKenna is vying for a fourth championship and Van Meter is going for a fifth.
Teams will leave the Big Lake start line in two-minute increments beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday. Ahead of them are more 2,031 miles of trail, much of it as rugged as it is remote, as they make their way first to the halfway point in Nome and then to the finish line in Fairbanks.
But even before the pro-class racers take off Sunday, Big Lake will be a busy place.
On Friday, trail-class racers leave Big Lake. On Saturday, the two-day Big Lake Winter Fest begins, offering sled dog, snowmachine and helicopter rides, a concert, fireworks and other activities.
The main event, of course, is Sunday's pro-class start.
The team of Bret Brown, a veteran racer from Anchorage, and Cody Kubitz, a rookie racer from Eagle River, will be the first to leave. They'll be riding Polaris machines.
Polaris boasts more Iron Dog titles -- 13 -- than any other snowmachine manufacturer. Polaris riders won three straight titles until McKenna and Van Meter earned victory last year on Ski-Doos, which has two Iron Dog titles. Arctic Cat has 10 and Yamaha three.
Racers, who ride in teams of two for safety reasons, will be gunning for more than $200,000 in prize money. A total of $126,000 will be paid to the top five finishers, and $84,500 worth of contingency prizes is also up for grabs.
The contingency cash prizes range from the $10,000 Donlin Gold will award to the first team to reach Nome, to the $250 LEAD-DOG Helmet Lights will pay to the first team that reaches Fairbanks with both riders' LEAD-DOG helmet lights on, provided both riders had them on when they left Big Lake.
Once in Nome, racers take a 36-hour layover. The halfway banquet and ceremonies are Wednesday, Feb. 20.
The race ends Feb. 23 in Fairbanks.
Sunday's start order
First team leaves at 11 a.m.
1) Team 7 -- Bret Brown, Anchorage-Cody Kubitz, Eagle River (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
2) Team 12 -- Robert Strick, McGrath-Steffen Strick Jr., McGrath (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
3) Team 33 -- Joseph Brantley, Selawik-Travis Ticket, Selawik (Polaris Indy)
4) Team 10 -- Mike Morgan, Anchorage-Chris Olds, Eagle River (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
5) Team 36 -- Ryan Johnson, Wasilla-Andy Lachinski, Wasilla (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
6) Team 30 -- Geoff Crouse, Anchorage-Jerrod Vaughn, Anchorage (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
7) Team 27 -- George Lambert, Kotzebue-Norman Sheldon, Selawik (Polaris Indy)
8) Team 15 -- Chris Collins, Kotzebue-Brad Reich, Kiana (Ski-Doo GSX LE)
9) Team 22 -- Robert Gardner, Mercer, Maine-Justin Libby, Pittsfield, Maine (Ski-Doo MX Z X)
10) Team 26 -- Harold Egan Jr., Palmer-Brian Jurenka, Anchorage (Polaris Rush Pro-R)
11) Team 32 -- Brad Dietrich, Fairbanks-Tim Jauhola, Fairbanks (Ski-Doo MX Z X-RS)
12) Team 25 -- Aaron Bartel, Anchorage-Brad George, Wasilla (Ski-Doo MX Z X-RS)
13) Team 8 -- Tyler Aklestad, Palmer-Tyson Johnson, Eagle River (Ski-Doo MX X Z)
13) Team 14 -- Harold Attla, Fairbanks-Ashley Wallace, Tanana (Polaris Rush Pro-R)
14) Team 11 -- Scott Davis, Soldotna-Todd Palin, Wasilla (Ski-Doo MX Z X)
15) Team 3 -- Bill Wilkes, Wasilla-Wayne Wold, Wasilla (Arctic Cat F1100)
16) Team 35 -- Colby Hill, Fairbanks-Kyle Motsko, Fairbanks (Arctic Cat F1100 Sno-Pro)
17) Team 16 -- Todd Minnick, Wasilla-Nick Olstad, Wasilla (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
18) Team 28 -- Vince Salzbrun, Eagle River-Michael Williams, Anchorage (Ski-Doo MX Z X)
19) Team 23 -- Brian Dick, Thief River Falls, Minn.-Eric Quam, Palmer (Arctic Cat Sno-Pro)
20) Team 2 -- Ryan Sottosanti, Anchorage-Andrew Zwink, Anchorage (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
21) Team 29 -- Kazimir Cizmowski, Healy-Greg Eckert, Fairbanks (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
22) Team 19 -- Steven Boney, Bethel-Arthur Laraux, Bethel (Yamaha FX Nytro XTS)
23) Team 17 -- Marc McKenna, Anchorage-Dusty Van Meter, Kasilof (Ski-Doo MX Z X-RS)
24) Team 20 -- John Faeo Jr., Wasilla-Scott Faeo, Wasilla (Polaris Indy)
25) Team 4 -- Chad Dow, Fairfield, Maine-Chris Kruse, Skowhegan, Maine (Ski-Doo MX Z X)
26) Team 21 -- Stan Brown, Eagle River-John Dean, Eagle River (Ski-Doo MX Z X)
27) Team 18 -- Chad Gueco, Wasilla-Aaron Loyer, Palmer (Ski-Doo MX Z X-RS)
28) Team 40 -- Aaron Marks, Tanana-Arnold Marks Jr., Tanana (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
29) Team 5 -- Ray Chvastasz, Wasilla-Jens Hopson, Anchorage (Polaris Rush Pro-R)
30) Team 31 -- Dale Bennett, Wasilla-Charlie Potter, Big Lake (Polaris Switchback Pro-R)
31) Team 9 -- Doug Dixon, Anchorage-Evan Booth, Nome (Polaris Indy)
32) Team 24 -- Roger Brown, Fairbanks-Andrew Wessels, Fairbanks (Polaris Switchback Adventure)
33) Team 37 -- Bo Phillips, Anchorage-Nathan Whitted, Big Lake (Polaris Indy)
34) Team 39 -- Cody Barber, Willow-Shane Barber, Willow (Polaris Indy)
35) Team 38 -- Jared Walker, Anchorage-Frank Ferreira, Noorvik (Polaris Indy)
36) Team 41 -- Louie Miller IV, Anchorage-Adam Van Zant, Anchorage (Polaris Switchback)
37) Team 13 -- James Croy, Wasilla-Jason Moore, Wasilla (Arctic Cat F1100)
38) Team 34 -- Jean Aucoin, Nova Scotia-Price Race (Ski-Doo MX Z X)