VanMeter, Carr take Iron Dog

Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2004

ANCHORAGE (AP) A pair of Kenai Peninsula racers roared across the finish line Saturday morning at Big Lake to capture the championship of the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race.

The victory was the fourth for Mark Carr, 45, of Kenai, but the first since 1999. Partner Dusty VanMeter, 34, of Kasilof, had won twice before, including 2002. They had not won as partners before.

Two-person teams driving separate snowmobiles cover about 2,000 miles and compete for a $90,000 purse in the race. Drivers left the starting gate on the Chena River in Fairbanks on Monday morning, drove west to Nome, then turned south to Wasilla. The race was canceled last year because of a lack of snow.

Carr is a pilot for Alaska Adventure Air. VanMeter is an operator for sponsor Tesoro.

Racers were held at Puntilla Lake in the Alaska Range on Friday to guarantee a daylight finish in Big Lake. Carr and VanMeter held a lead of about 45 minutes at that point over Evan Booth of Nome and Dan Zipay of Anchorage.

Driving a pair of 600cc Ski-Doos, Carr and VanMeter reached the finish line in Big Lake at 10:51 a.m. They finished in a combined time of 39 hours, three minutes.

It's the first time the Iron Dog has been won by drivers on Bombardier Ski-Doos.

Finishing 38 minutes behind Carr and VanMeter in 39:41 were Scott Davis of Soldotna and Todd Palin of Wasilla, who drove Polaris snowmobiles.

Davis and Palin led in the race on the leg to Nome but fell behind after their machines had mechanical problems.

They began Saturday in third place. They were able to move past Booth and Zipay, as did Shane Barber and Ken Kleewein of Willow, who reached Big Lake at 1:13 p.m. and finished third in 41:25. They also drove Polaris machines.

Booth and Zipay, driving 140-horsepower Yamahas, fell to fourth, reaching the finish line at 2:04 p.m. and finishing in 42:16.

The Yamaha RX snowmachine generated a lot of interest in this year's race because the machine uses a four-cycle engine.

The race rules even had to be changed to allow the Yamaha RXs into the race. A 700-cubic-centimeter limit on engine size was bumped up to 1,000 cc in order to allow the machine into the race. While the machines had the most power, they also were the heaviest in the race.

Curtis Cherrier of Anchorage and Jim McAllen of Anchorage, driving Polaris snowmobiles, finished fifth in 43:41.

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