2017 Iron Dog — Day 7 Coverage

Checking into Tanana, Team 8 of Tyson Johnson and Tyler Aklestad boasted an incredible 1 hour and 14 minute lead over their pursuers, Team 41.  With just shy of 300 miles of very fast river running to complete, a back-to-back win for both the racers and SkiDoo appeared to be a lock.  Johnson and Aklestad had put together pretty much a flawless run and short of anything out of the ordinary happening, the $65,000 payout along with other prizes looked to be theirs.  Well, something out of the ordinary has happened, shaking up this race like we've never seen before. We first heard rumblings of a penalty and/or disqualification for Team 8 just past 11:30pm yesterday and before 1am, Iron Dog has made it official that Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson have been disqualified from the 2017 Iron Dog race.  On the Iron Dog Marshals Facebook page, it was stated: "The Iron Dog requires racers to receive fuel only in designated checkpoints with very specific rules and procedures. We make one exception for the trail section between Ruby and Tanana because it is the longest distance between checkpoints. It can be difficult for teams to carry enough fuel even with auxiliary tanks under certain trail conditions to make that distance. The rules were written so teams could stage fuel and oil between Ruby and Tanana, but otherwise not allowed to receive any other assistance.
This rule was discussed at length in the drivers meeting before the race. The Lead Marshal read aloud Rule 13.2.1 to all the racers and reiterated that no physical contact with the snowmachines was allowed when fueling in this area by anyone other than the racers, which applies to all other locations with the exception of Nome. The Marshals found evidence that Team 8 received outside assistance. The crew providing fuel between Ruby and Tanana made physical contact with the racer’s snowmobiles. Rule 13.2.1 is one of the only penalties that is explicitly specified within the rules. The Marshals have determined that Team 8 violated Rule 13.2.1 and 13.2.2. The penalty for those violations is disqualification as specified in Rule 13.2.3. The Marshals have disqualified Team 8 for violating Rule 13.2."
It was discussed that the photo snapped below likely forced the disqualification of Team 8: 2017 Iron Dog Race Team 8 Online discussion and even reviews of the SkiDoo tank design mention the necessity to 'burp' the air out of the tank, which allows the last remaining 1/2 to 1 full gallon of fuel to be put in the snowmachine.  This is what is happening in the above photo.  Due to SkiDoo potentially losing a back-to-back win in the longest, toughest snowmobile race on the planet, I wouldn't doubt that this could warrant a redesign from the BRP engineers. Here's where it gets hairy...... The rules state: 13.2.1. NO OTHER ASSISTANCE OF ANY KIND INCLUDING PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH THE PIT CREW WILL BE PERMITTED. and 13.2.3. PARTICIPANTS WILL BE DISQUALIFIED IF ANY PART OF THIS FUELING PROCEDURE IS NEGLECTED. Because the rules state that no outside assistance can be given, this has resulted in scores of video clips and photos of numerous other teams having other individuals come into 'Physical Contact' with the racers equipment.  Does this mean standing on the running board means DQ?  Does this mean that when someone held a piece of bungee cord while Team 2 installed a side panel mean DQ?  Does this mean that unscrewing the cap on an oil jug and handing it to a racer means DQ? There have been questions like "How does the Iron Dog define the 'Pit Crew'?" and "Was the person who touched the sled invited?" I believe, and this is just me, that this is where the 'nature of the rule' comes into play.  In other instances, it could certainly be argued that any physical touch would and could shave time off of a fueling stop, but the perception (please read perception again) of how it looked when Team 8 was refueling is that they were blatantly getting assistance from two other individuals in speeding up the time it took to completely fill up the sleds with fuel.  The rule begins with 'NO OTHER ASSISTANCE OF ANY KIND'...regardless of how the words 'Pit Crew' are defined.  The real question might be 'What defines assistance?'. 2017 Iron Dog Marshals Could those two locals in the photo have known that the SkiDoo sleds need to be burped? Absolutely! Could they have been unwarranted help while the racers were unaware of this? Sure, that could be true.  Could they have turned around, noticed this was happening and immediately instructed them to stop?   Without a doubt.  I just can't get past the fact that how the photo looks is what forced the decision. It 'looks' orchestrated. I'm not saying it was, but I'm saying the perception is bad, and was bad enough to have the Iron Dog Marshals make that call.  One thing to also consider is that the Marshals have more information on the topic, have talked to everyone in question, have deliberated over this, and ultimately have made this decision. There has been a literal storm of emotions online about this decision, and there will be more of this as the day breaks and the news spreads that this has happened.  Would it be so seemingly egregious if it had been another team that isn't the 'all stars' at the moment?  I'm not sure, but having the leaders, the reigning champions, and the team that everyone 'knew' was going to win (I spoke with a racer on day 3 that, when asked, said 'Tyson and Tyler will win for sure'), get disqualified is certainly grounds for driving emotions, anger, and confusion. Emotions aside, and yes, I would've loved to see TnT race to Fairbanks in a back-to-back win, I think it was what could have been the 'blatant nature' of the photo above that had to force the decision to be made.  If all goes well on the river in the morning, Team 41 should easily clinch the victory in this race.  Will it be a hollow win?  It very well could be.  If anything it will probably feel as if there is an asterisk on their victory. Nobody, including the people involved in this decision made this without extreme difficulty, knowing that there is so much on the line.

**Day 7 Update**

Iron Dog race officials have released a statement as to help clarify the decision making process after Team 8 had been disqualified, and from their perspective, it is fairly cut and dried.  Our Iron Dog Oracle was at the finish line in Fairbanks and has reported that "Most of the people that I spoke to at the finish line understand why the decision to DQ Team 8 was made. They don't like it, but the do agree with it. "  The online community of spectators and individuals following the race do seem divided on the issue, with some calling the ruling a disgrace and on the other end acknowledge that if a rule was broken, and that a disqualification is the penalty, then the ruling must be followed. What do the racers think?  I spoke with Kyle Conner, who has raced in the Pro-Class of the Iron Dog four times and he said that 'The cool thing about Tanana is that all the racers are in one big room at the checkpoint, so you know everyone is talking about this, and discussing the decision'.  A photo on social media has cropped up which is a petition written and signed by all the racers stating their disapproval of the disqualification, which could speak volumes as to future rulebook changes, tweaks, or clarification.  A video from Rebecca Charles, below, at the finish line is the interview with Tyson Johnson regarding this petition [video width="854" height="480" mp4="https://www.thealaskalife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-Iron-Dog-Tyson-Johnson-Interview.mp4"][/video]   2017 Iron Dog With Team 8 officially out of the running, Team 41 was scheduled to leave Tanana at 8am.  In what seems to have been a declaration of rider unity, the two teams left Tanana and rode nearly the entire last portion of the race as a group. 2017 Iron Dog Team 41 and Team 8 raced toward Fairbanks from Tanana until roughly 10 miles from the finish line.  The first three sleds went across an ice shelf in the river and the third sled broke through the ice, which was ridden by  Tyson Johnson of Team 8.  His Ski-Doo slammed into the ice shelf and ripped the right front side of his sled off.  Team 41 stopped and helped them get the sled out of the river and back on the trail.  With Team 17 gaining on them rapidly, Cory David and Ryan Simons jumped back on their sleds and raced toward the finish to ensure that they didn't lose their lead position in the race. [video width="854" height="480" mp4="https://www.thealaskalife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-Iron-Dog-Crash-Finish.mp4"][/video] 2017 Iron Dog Team 8 Team 41 crossed the finish line in Fairbanks at 1:56:25pm.  Ryan Simons has become the first person to claim the Iron Dog Championship that was not an Alaska resident. Team 17 finished 1 minute 4 seconds later Team 8 physically crossed the finish line in third, position, but were still officially disqualified Team of Huss/Sottosanti have officially rounded out the podium of the 2017 Iron Dog crossing the finish line in Fairbanks at 3:09:02pm Cory Davis is seen below in a post-race interview.  You can clearly tell that Davis is hesitant to discuss the decision for multiple reasons, and gives his take on how they ran the race. [video width="854" height="480" mp4="https://www.thealaskalife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-Iron-Dog-Cory-Davis-Interview.mp4"][/video] The feeling at the finish line was that, ultimately, the racers and fans alike are now just glad that the race is over.  Team 41 has been declared the winner.  KTUU has reported that "Galena resident and longtime Iron Dog fan Peter Aloysius tells KTUU that he and his father have gone up and staged fuel for riders for many years, but it was the first time for the two spectators who pushed on the sleds.  Aloysius continues, "Tyson and Tyler both noticed and asked them to stop. Which they did. Now the picture doesn't do it justice for what all happened. A picture is a split second. These guys are professionals at this sport and are where they are by knowing and following the rules. They had no intentions of cheating as this gave them no possible benefit." Rebecca Charles released a video shown below of Tyler Aklestad of Team 8 at the finish line.  See his response to the disqualification and what he hopes comes after the race has ended. [video width="854" height="480" mp4="https://www.thealaskalife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-Iron-Dog-Tyler-Aklestad-Finish.mp4"][/video] Tyson Johnson also gives further explanation of what had happened and gives expanded clarification surrounding the photo in question [video width="854" height="480" mp4="https://www.thealaskalife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-Iron-Dog-Tyson-Johnson-Clarifies-Photo.mp4"][/video] The feeling of the racers and many of the spectators discussing the situation are firmly in the camp that there was some predisposed feeling that Team 8 was not running a clean race.  Tyson Johnson gives us a bit more information on the history with the current race marshal and the feelings of what they may do if something doesn't happen o change the outcome of the 2017 Iron Dog. [video width="854" height="480" mp4="https://www.thealaskalife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-Iron-Dog-Extended-Tyson-Johnson-Interview.mp4"][/video]      


Im trying to follow this race from In. really need video to prove something is wrong here

DAVID McGREGOR April 17, 2021

TnT is not mad at the race officials. They are mad at the Rules that were enforced, as are many supporters of TnT.

rules are rules April 17, 2021

Actually this unclear rule allows any person plus a photographer to touch machines and photograph it in order to disqualify teams and pick a winner. All the teams were verbally told when discussing this rule that they would not be penalized for a random instance such as this and told not to yell at locals. This rule was put in to stop people getting sleds repaired on the sly etc. All racers already signed a petition stating this.

Lydia April 17, 2021


Tammy Webb April 17, 2021

Nope they were not topping off their tanks at this point just adding a few gallons they didn’t need the tanks topped.

Lydia April 17, 2021

It looks to be a very expensive decision made by iron dog that will taint the race forever. I can’t see how they could possibly win this after reading all the rules that apply to this situation. I hope they have a large backup cash reserve

Lydia April 17, 2021

If there wasn’t a race official present to witness it, sure doesn’t seem like the judges should be making a ruling based on a bystanders photo. Just sayin.

Steve Reynolds April 17, 2021

They didn’t gain an extra half gallon as they were not filling their tanks

Lydia April 17, 2021

There was no official there! Just a photo sent to officials. I have seen how a photo can be staged in an instant.

Sarah Wiggers April 17, 2021

So if that’s the case…even the oil cap and the team that got the bungie cord should be dq’ed. If you apply the rule to one team it should apply to all teams.

Rick April 17, 2021

I do not think the team would cheat.
They aren’t looking at the back of their rigs, they’re fueling up their tanks by themselves. The racers are so full of adrenaline to win the race, it’s hard to notice everything.

Alaskangail April 17, 2021

What is the difference between this picture and the one in your day five article taken in Unalakleet? What is the purpose of rule 13.2.3 for this stop but not follo,wed in the check points.

Frank April 17, 2021

Key works “No other assistance”. The exception is they can receive outside help for fuel between Ruby and Tanana. It seems to me that’s what happened. Did they do anything else than fuel up? What I see in the photo is allowed per the rules.

Dan April 17, 2021

Rule 13.2 says they can receive help only between Ruby and Tanana….my assumption is that this “help” was received somewhere OUTSIDE of that, thus violating rules in section 13.

jason April 17, 2021

They are pushing te snowmachine down to be able to get the maximum of fuel.

Bartje April 17, 2021

Irondog does a terrible job covering this race so fans are posting pics and videos so people can actually enjoy parts of the race they couldn’t otherwise and iron dog is using them against racers now? A dq for this is completely out of line how about a 15 min penalty what did it save them 1 minute versus having their partner push down on the back? Why did the irondog list them as scratched when they were dq’d. That smells to me

Kyler April 17, 2021

You need to add in rule 13.2. . If you are going to write a story, put everything out on the table. Rule 13 contradicts itself also it is not very clear. If this is taken to court, I believe a Judge would rule in favor of Team 8, because the rules are not straight forward.

Charles Swanson April 17, 2021

Well written piece. Your coverage and updates of this awesome race are second to none. I also dont believe these guys are cheaters by any stretch of the imagination. Theyve run a great race and my hats off to them and all these teams. As an avid rider myself, it baffels me that they wouldn’t know or feel the rear suspentions of their sleds being compressed as they were fueling but I wasn’t there. I’d rather give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, those spectators should have know better and kept their hands off! If I was a conspirator I’d maybe think they were trying to get the team disqualified by touching their sleds without permission…? Things in this situation aren’t adding up. But I agree. Rules are rules and they were upheld. It was the right call. An unfortunate one, but the right one.

Ed April 17, 2021

It appears team 41 and team 8 both left Tanana and are riding together!!!!! Classy move, boys!
Good stuff!

Jason April 17, 2021

Well written…thank you.

While I agree that it is an unfortunate disqualification, and I don’t believe #8 was explicitly looking to cheat, rules are rules, and gaining assistance to get that “extra” half gallon in by employing outiside help is, simply, against the rules…end of story.
I do feel for Aklestadt and Johnson, but don’t tell me they didn’t notice two guys burping their machines while they fueled up…that’s ludicrous.

Team 8; You’re great riders… no one believes you were trying to cheat or skirt the rules, but sometimes unfortunate things happen….man up, and go get ’em next year!

jason April 17, 2021

I looked at the picture again and neither one of them was looking back and i do not think they even know the 2 men were at the back of the machine their attention is on fueling and did not even took back and see the 2 men pushing on those sled . Not a fair judgement at all

Joyce Logan April 17, 2021

Well written I agree with the desicions. Always remember when you are winning out front you will be watched closely.this goes for rules and charector. It goes with any sport and always will. It’s not necessarily what the athlete wants or needs. It’s just there. Officials will take heat for months on this I’m sure. If you don’t agree go be a official. Find out the glory in being one. Hats off to all that put this extraordinary event on officiate it and above all participate in it. You people are are extraordinary,tough,unique individuals. God bless all

Shawn ellis April 17, 2021

I do not believe these 2 guys would ever cheat on any race ever. . The rule is all wrong and should be changed . If anything it looks more like a set up not a breaking of a rule. The Iron Dog is really going to suffer on this one . People are going to leave and sponsers will with draw. . What went on I doubt if the boys even realized what was going on. They w both intent on gassing not talking . Not a fair thing being done here

Joyce Logan April 17, 2021

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