Given a reprieve after financial woes nearly doomed the race last summer, the Iron Dog snowmachine race begins this weekend with 24 teams chasing a $100,000 cash purse.
Racers will leave Deshka Landing near Willow beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday. They’ll travel about 2,000 miles to Fairbanks by way of Nome, with racers hitting the finish line in Fairbanks sometime during daylight hours on Saturday, Feb. 23.
The field includes three of the last five championship teams — defending champions Mike Morgan and Chris Olds, 2016 champions Tyler Akelstad and Tyson Johnson, and 2014 winners Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad. Morgan and Olds are driving Polaris machines and the other two teams will be aboard Ski-Doos.
Financial issues almost led to the cancellation of the race, but the board of directors in August decided to stage a race this year. The Iron Dog still lacks a title sponsor, but Donlin Gold and Northern Air Cargo are still on board and smaller donations made since August’s decision have kept the race afloat, first-year executive director John Woodbury said earlier this year.
Gone is the ceremonial start in Anchorage, as well as the Flying Iron freestyle show that used to be part of the pre-race festitivies.
Still on tap is the safety expo, which this year is Friday from 1-8 p.m. at the Menard Center in Wasilla.
At 10 a.m. Friday, five trail-class teams will leave Southport Marina in Big Lake for a noncompetitive journey that ends in Nome.
2019 pro-class racers
Team No. 3 — Steven Boney-Oliver Unruh, Arctic Cat
Team No. 4 — Ben Miebs-Dan Thibtaul, Ski-Doo
Team No. 5 — Zach Weisz-Brett Lapham, Polaris
Team No. 6 — Brad George-Adam Drinkhouse, Ski-Doo
Team No. 8 — Tyler Akelstad-Tyson Johnson, Ski-Doo
Team No. 10 — Mike Morgan-Chris Olds, Polaris
Team No. 12 — Ken Kleewein-Kruz Kleewein, Polaris
Team No. 14 — Casey Boylan-Bryan Leslie, Ski-Doo
Team No. 15 — Micah Huss-West Selby, Arctic Cat
Team No. 16 — Nick Olstad-Todd Minnick, Ski-Doo
Team No. 17 — Corey Berg-Ray Chvastasz, Polaris
Team No. 20 — Chad Gueco-Scott Faeo, Ski-Doo
Team No. 25 — Dietrich Nikolai-Nicholas Reader, Polaris
Team No. 26 — Ivar Carlson-Robert Masson, Polaris
Team No. 29 — Danielle Levine-Larry Levine, Polaris
Team No. 30 — Blake Elder-Kyle Conner, Arctic Cat
Team No. 31 — Bobby Menne-Troy Conlon, Ski-Doo
Team No. 32 — Kelly Sommer-George Mountain, Polaris
Team No. 35 — Jerrod Vaughn-Mike Oliver, Polaris
Team No. 39 — Shane Barber-Cody Barber, Polaris
Team No. 42 — Amos Cruise-Jarvis Miller, Ski-Doo
Team. No. 44 — Michael Lilly-Kyle Krause, Arctic Cat
Team No. 45 — Thomas Baugartner-Barney Anselment, Ski-Doo
Team No. 49 — Klint VanWinderden-Andrew Gumley, Polaris