SUNDAY START: Palin and Davis ready for 2,000-mile race.
By RON WILMOT
Anchorage Daily News
Published: February 10, 2007
Last Modified: February 10, 2007 at 03:05 AM
When Todd Palin looks out the window of the governor's mansion in downtown Juneau, he often sees plenty of snow and even the occasional trailer topped with snowmobiles driving by.
But Palin, a three-time champion of the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmachine race that begins Sunday on Big Lake, has done no riding in the capital city since wife Sarah Palin was elected governor.
"I see a lot of snowmachines in Juneau," Palin said. "But it's a lot of mountain riding. I'm a flatlander."
Iron Doggers generally ride thousands of miles to test their machines and hone their bodies for the 2,000-mile race, billed as the world's longest and toughest. For the second straight year, the course stretches from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks. Twenty-nine teams will chase a purse of nearly $125,000.
But for Palin, juggling the demands of four kids, a week-on, week-off job as a production manager with BP Alaska on the North Slope, moving the family to Juneau and serving as "First Dude" to the state of Alaska has left him little time to fire up his Arctic Cat.
But in an interview last month, Palin said he wasn't worried, even though he's logged far less mileage than he'd like.
He rides as much as possible when he's back at the Palin home in Wasilla. His partner is six-time Iron Dog winner Scott Davis of Soldotna, so both know the trail well. Davis, whose whole family races, takes care of the sleds.
And Palin's last two Iron Dog titles, in 2000 and 2002, came when he was playing Mr. Mom while Sarah Palin was Wasilla mayor.
Palin said his whole family supports his racing, and there was never any question that he'd continue when his wife was elected governor.
"We just adapt," he said. "In a lot of ways, we're just a typical Alaska family. Well, maybe not as typical."
Palin and Davis came in second last year in the closest Iron Dog finish ever -- and one of the most controversial.
Fifteen miles from the finish and speeding near 100 mph, Andy George of Wasilla cut in front of Davis, causing him to crash. Davis got back on his sled, and he and Palin managed to catch George and partner Dwayne Drake of Fairbanks.
Drake and George sped past the finish line on the Chena River just one second ahead of Davis and Palin.
Palin and Davis filed a protest, but Iron Dog officials didn't issue any penalties and Drake and George were declared winners.
The wreck caused some hard feelings. Both teams ride Arctic Cats and used to train together and share information, Palin said. No more.
Palin didn't see the wreck, but didn't believe it was intentional.
"Andy is the hardest-working guy I know. I've known him for a long time," Palin said. "Both of those guys I consider buddies. I've known Dwayne since 1994. I put that team together. Andy was looking for a partner. I said 'call Dwayne.' "
Palin and Dwayne partnered to win the 1995 Iron Dog.
"Unfortunately, the controversy clouded the whole finish," said Davis, who injured his left thumb in the wreck. "I wouldn't say I'm a grudge holder. One thing looks different to one guy compared to the other. Andy is a great guy. We'll just go on from there."
George and Drake, speaking Friday at Mat-Su Resort where the starting order was drawn, described the final miles of the race as "a dogfight" and that teams were jockeying for the lead.
"That's just racing," George said.
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