FAIRBANKS -- Marc McKenna and Dusty VanMeter did it again.
The dynamic snowmachine duo won the 2,000-mile Iron Dog snowmachine race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks for the second straight year when they cruised into Fairbanks shortly after noon on Saturday.
Driving Ski-Doo MX Z X-RS 600cc snowmachines, Anchorage's McKenna, 34, and Kasilof's VanMeter, 43, coasted across the finish line on the Chena River at 12:38 p.m. to claim their second straight title in the toughest snowmachine race in the world.
It was the fourth Iron Dog victory for McKenna and the fifth for VanMeter.
Both men were greeted by their families and hundreds of well-wishers after crossing the finish line in the midst of Fairbanks' Tired Iron Festival, also taking place on the river in the center of the Golden Heart City.
McKenna's wife Kristin and daughters Asa and Teya were one hand for the celebration as were VanMeter's wife Evelyn, daughters Kaiti and Shaelyn and son Brayden.
"It was a good race, we just kind of cruised," said McKenna, "We never got carried away with trying to go too fast. We just kind of kept the pace and stuck with it."
The duo was a little off the pace early in the race, but wound up winning by about 50 minutes.
"It was not uneventful," said Dusty VanMeter. "We had our woes. The first couple of days we were down a little, but we made our push and got back in it."
McKenna and VanMeter finished the race with a trail time of 36 hours, 58 minutes and 54 seconds for an average speed of 57.22 miles per hour.
While the team won the race by a wide margin, there were times when there was some concern.
"It was a little nerve-wracking leaving Nome with a four-minute lead and knowing there was someone right on your tail for hundreds of miles," McKenna said.
Brian Dick and Eric Quam had been chasing the winners from Nome to Galena and were running four minutes off the pace the entire time. However, a broken jackshaft on Quam's Arctic Cat forced the duo to tow the machine 50 miles to Tanana on Friday, giving McKenna and Van Meter the luxury of not having to push to the finish.
Still, neither man was taking anything for granted.
"You never know until you get right there," VanMeter said pointing to the finish line. "We've had a couple of close calls on the river before, so you can't count on anything until you get here."
The winners collected a $50,000 paycheck in addition to winning the Donlin Gold $10,000 halfway prize for the third straight year. The race offered $210,000 in purse and contingency money.
Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson finished second at 1:29 p.m. They had a trail time of 37:49:39 and an average speed of 55.94 mph. They received a $35,000 paycheck.
Third place and an $18,000 paycheck went to Mike Morgan and Chris Olds, who crossed the finish line at 1:57 p.m. for a trail time of 38:17.2 and an average speed of 55.26 mph.
The youngest team in the race -- 22-year-old Aaron Bartel and 19-year-old Brad George -- finished fourth at 1:59, earning a $13,000 paycheck. They were on the trail 38:19:24 and averaged 55.21 mph.
Scott Davis and Todd Palin rounded out the top five and collected $10,000. They finished at 2:40 p.m. with a trail time of 39:20:33 and an average speed of 54.78 mph.
Chris Collins and Brad Reich earned free entry fees into the 2014 Iron Dog for finishing in sixth place at 2:44 p.m. with a trail time of 44:17:20 and an average speed of 45.54 mph.
As many as 22 teams were expected to finish by Saturday night. Forty teams started the race.
By BOB ELEY
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner