Meet your new Iron Dog snowmachine race champions, the same as the old ones -- Marc McKenna and Dusty VanMeter of Team 17, who repeated their 2012 victory during a sunny finish in Fairbanks at 12:38 p.m. Saturday, having once again conquered more than 2,000 miles of trail.
McKenna and VanMeter’s win came on Ski-Doo sleds, with 36 hours, 58 minutes and 54 seconds of trail time. Their victory was threatened Friday by Team 23’s Brian Dick and Eric Quam, who had closed the lead to only seven minutes of trail time, with race officials expecting the two teams to duel for position en route to Tanana.
Mechanical problems on the trail left Dick’s snowmachine towing Quam’s into Tanana Friday afternoon, however, more than an hour behind Team 17 -- a time difference that carried over to Saturday’s hold times for departure from Tanana, with Team 17 out of the gate at 8 a.m. while Team 23 didn’t hit the trail until 9:04 a.m.
At the Fairbanks finish line, VanMeter admitted that he hadn't realized what happened to Dick and Quam until a reporter asked him about their breakdown, since he and McKenna perceived their lead building as a series of gradual gains.
"We figured we may have been picking up a few minutes at every checkpoint," VanMeter said.
Race standings as of 1:30 p.m. showed Team 8's Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson leaving North Pole for Fairbanks at 12:49 p.m., with Team 37's Bo Phillips and Nathan Whitted departing not far behind them at 1:15 p.m. Team 10's Mike Morgan and Chris Olds were headed out from Nenana to North Pole at 12:03 p.m., followed by Team 25's Aaron Bartel and Brad George at 12:08 p.m. rounding out the likely top five.
Meanwhile, McKenna was ecstatic at the finish line when asked about the formation of a possible Iron Dog dynasty with Saturday's victory -- which earns a $50,000 prize for him and VanMeter -- on the heels of his 2012 triumph with VanMeter.
"Oh, it means a lot; two in a row is huge," McKenna said. "This definitely feels great -- two wins in a row is huge."
Channel 2’s Jeff Rivet and Neil Torquiano contributed information to this story.
This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.
Contact Chris Klint