Medina, Minn. – Polaris racers Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad won the grueling Iron Dog cross-country snowmobile race across Alaska on Saturday, Feb. 22, on a pair of 600 Switchback Pro-R snowmobiles. In the ultimate display of Polaris Terrain Domination, the pair completed the 2,031-mile race across punishing Alaskan landscapes in trouble-free fashion aboard durable, dependable Polaris sleds.
The team of Mike Morgan and Chris Olds finished third, also on Polaris 600 Switchback Pro-R snowmobiles, to join the winners on the podium at the finish line in Fairbanks.
Five teams on Polaris sleds finished in the top 10. Along with the first- and third-place teams were:
• Archie Agnes and Arnold Marks finished sixth, both on 600 Switchback Pro-R models.
• Shane Barber and Ryan Sottosanti finished seventh, both on Polaris 600 Switchback Pro-R sleds.
• Gabe Bunke and Scott Faeo finished 10th, both on 600 Indy sleds.
Three more Polaris teams finished in the top 20: In 11th place was the team of Archie Beetus and Ryan Folsom, both riding 600 Indy snowmobiles; in 13th was the team of Kyle Conner on a 600 Switchback and Jerrod Vaughn on a 600 Switchback Pro-R; in 16th was the team of Tyler Delimont and Larry Jones, both on 600 Indy models.
Two teams of racers on Polaris sleds successfully completed the race for the first time. In 21st place was the team of Doss Daley and Cory Easterling, both on 600 Switchback Pro-R sleds. Finishing 22nd on Polaris 600 Switchback sleds was the team of Michael Fuller and Eddie Kinn.
The win was the second Iron Dog victory on Polaris sleds for the team of Minnick and Olstad, who won together in 2009. Olstad was also on the winning team in 2005. Minnick, 34, and Olstad, 31, are both from Wasilla, AK. Minnick was racing in his 12th Iron Dog, while Olstad was racing in his 10th Iron Dog.
The 2014 Iron Dog victory is the 14th Polaris win in 30 Iron Dog races—the most of any manufacturer. It is also the fourth win in the past six years for Polaris. Chris Olds and Tyler Huntington won as teammates aboard Polaris sleds in 2010 and 2011, and Minnick and Olstad won in 2009.
Winners Took Lead and ‘Never Looked Back’
The 2014 race started in Big Lake, AK, on Sunday, Feb. 16. The Pro teams raced to Nome, where the midway banquet was held on Feb. 19 before racing resumed Feb. 20 with the Pro teams charging for the finish line in Fairbanks.
Morgan and Olds were the race leaders at the midway point, and Minnick and Olstad arrived in Nome in third place. Minnick and Olstad proceeded to set an incredibly fast pace and ran trouble-free over the second half of the race to earn the victory.
“We passed the second place team at Unalakleet,” the fourth checkpoint in the second half of the race, Minnick said. “Then we passed the first place team at Galena [the sixth second-half checkpoint]. As soon as we took the lead, we never looked back. We started the final day of racing with a 21-minute lead and won with a 23-minute lead, so we actually stretched it out just a bit.
Switchbacks Deliver Unmatched Performance & Reliability
Minnick said the winning team’s 600 Switchback Pro-R sleds delivered outstanding performance and bulletproof durability in the rough racing conditions.
“This was our second year on Switchbacks and we absolutely love them,” he said. “It’s an absolutely unbelievable sled for this particular race. They’re extremely reliable and friendly to ride over all the different terrain conditions we experienced. They’re by far the best sled available for this race.”
Upon reaching Nome, the mid-point of the race, teams were allowed to service their sleds, but Minnick and Olstad had little to do.
“The only things we did was tighten chains, tighten tracks and change carbides. Some teams on other [brands of] sleds had to change their carbides several times, but we were able to maintain ours for half the race. So at Nome, we just gave the sleds a spit shine and sent them back out,” he laughed. “That was about all we did.”
Minnick said race conditions were as rough as most Iron Dog observers had ever seen. “There was zero snow for the most part,” he said. “It was dirt, rocks, water, you name it—definitely the most grueling Iron Dog to date. Very marginal snow conditions.”
Plus, racers had to traverse mile upon mile of frozen tussocks, large tufts of grass that, when frozen, can resemble boulder fields.
“It was hundreds of miles of straight dirt, ice, and tussocks,” Minnick said. “I don’t think there’s anything worse than tussocks, just frozen hard. Honestly, you could be going 10 miles an hour and you’re out of control, just waiting to get cartwheeled off your sled, which happened to some guys.”
But he and Olstad found the Switchbacks with their 136-inch tracks and terrain dominating suspension crossed that unforgiving terrain smoothly.
“It was like riding a combination a couch and a Cadillac,” Minnick said. “There is no better-riding sled for that terrain, and the same can be said for when there’s snow. It’s really a win-win situation.”
Minnick said he and Olstad plan to return for the 2015 Iron Dog on Polaris snowmobiles.
“Absolutely, without a doubt. We hope to run the same program—hopefully with the same results,” he said. “Think of it: We logged over 2,000 miles, about 36 hours of running time, and the only thing we did was change the ski carbides. These Switchbacks were just phenomenal.”
Bio Info for Polaris Pro Race Teams
The third-place team was comprised of Morgan, 28, who is from Nome and was running his fifth Iron Dog, and Olds, 42, from Eagle River, AK. Olds was in his 13th Iron Dog and was on back-to-back winning teams on Polaris sleds in 2010 and 2011.
Both members of the sixth-place team, Agnes and Marks, are from Tanana, AK. They were in seventh place at the midway point of the race. Agnes, 38, was racing as a Pro in the Iron Dog for the second time, and Marks, 31, was running in his fourth Iron Dog as a Pro.
The seventh-place team of Barber and Sottosanti was in eighth at the midway point. Barber, 39, of Willow, AK, was in his 10th Iron Dog, and Sottosanti, 36, of Wasilla, was in his sixth Iron Dog.
The 10th-place team consisted of Bunke, 37, of Moorhead, MN, and Faeo, 30, of Wasilla. Faeo was racing in his second Iron Dog as a Pro, and Bunke, a Midwest cross-country and enduro racing star, competed in the Iron Dog for the first time in his career.
The 11th-place team included Beetus, 27, of Hughes, AK, who was in his second Iron Dog, and Folsom, 32, of Fairbanks, who was a Pro-class rookie in this year’s race.
The 13th-place team was comprised of Iron Dog rookie Conner, 24, of Willow, AK, and Vaughn, 30, of Anchorage, who was in his second Iron Dog.
The 16th-place team consisted of Anchorage racers Delimont, 25, an Iron Dog rookie, and Jones, 28, who was racing in his second Iron Dog.
On the 21st-place team was Daley, 25, of Anchorage, and Easterling, 27, of Wasilla, and the 22nd-place team consisted of Fuller, 48, of Chugiak, AK, and Kinn, 31, an Iron Dog rookie from Corvallis, OR.