Kasilof's VanMeter leads as Iron Dog nears finish

Kasilof's Dusty VanMeter and Anchorage's Marc McKenna are in position to win their second straight Iron Dog title.

The duo was the first to reach Tanana on Friday, and will start 1 hour, 4 minutes, before the second-place team Saturday. VanMeter and McKenna will depart Tanana at 8 a.m. and have to ride 291 miles to the finish line in Fairbanks. A win would be worth $50,000.

They are expected to finish between noon and 1 p.m. The live finish will be carried on KTUU.

VanMeter, in search of his fifth Iron Dog title, was reached by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Tanana. Despite the big lead, he is not savoring victory yet.

"It's never over until it's over," he told the paper. "We won't breathe a sigh of relief until we cross that finish line."

VanMeter's fate in 2011 is not far from his mind. That year, VanMeter had the lead on the Yukon River before his sled plunged into a hole in the river's ice pack made by an excavation company digging for gravel.

The News-Miner reported VanMeter and McKenna left Ruby with only a six-minute lead on Brian Dick and Eric Quam, but that Quam sustained a broken jackshaft that cost that team about an hour.

Dick and Quam can leave at 9:04 p.m., while Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson can leave four minutes later.

Scott Davis of Soldotna and Todd Palin of Wasilla are in sixth place. Davis, a seven-time champ, will leave 2 hours, 8 minutes, after VanMeter and McKenna.

Brian Smith's feature on VanMeter

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