2017 Iron Dog - The Saga Continues

2017 Iron Dog - Not Over Yet?

Trophies were hoisted in the air, over-sized checks were presented to the top three teams, and as of now, it seems everyone is still holding their breath as it doesn't appear that the 2017 Iron Dog is even over. As I write this, please keep in mind that I'm trying to relay what happened, explain the situation, see things from both sides, and make sense of what has happened, and what could happen.  I, in no way, am taking an sides in this matter and am just interested in seeing how this cookie crumbles. Let's take a look at the photo again: 2017 Iron Dog Race Team 8 Let's hop in the Iron Dog Race Marshal's shoes... If I'm the Race Marshal, there are a couple things to notice.  Firstly, we immediately see people pushing down on the bumpers of the sleds while they're being re-fueled.  I think everyone knows the implications of what has happened in that regard.  What many aren't discussing is the fact that Tyson Johnson is filling his sled, in the seated position, seeming to have driven close enough to a full fuel jug, grabbed it out of the snow, got the caps off the fuel tank and the jug, and hoisted/inverted it to fill his tank.  Could an innocent bystander have handed him the jug, unknowingly giving him 'assistance'?  Possibly.  Could he have done just what was detailed above?  Absolutely.  Either way, what is seen in the photo, regardless if he was even handed a fuel jug, is contact with the sleds.  According to the implicit rules, the only penalty for this is....disqualification. **EDIT: It has been made clear that Tyson Johnson is certainly not sitting on the sled but leaning against it** Iron Dog specifically reminded the racers of this rule at several race meetings (including at a racers meeting in Nome) and with no race officials the refueling point , they have to make this rule specific and the penalties harsh.  A 100% no-touch rule was in effect.  The Iron Dog has to not care which racers were being assisted at this particular location, and unfortunately the situation at hand was the defending champs and soon-to-be returning champs were the ones caught up in the mayhem of it all. The marshals hands were tied and the rule was enforced.  If they hadn't done this, it would have been easy for another team and/or sponsor to have a cut and dried case against the Iron Dog.  Again, remember I'm playing devils advocate. 2017 Iron Dog Team 8 Start Let's hop in Team 8's boots... You're clearly in the lead, and know your lead is substantial.  How substantial?  You aren't quite sure, but know its all but over for the racers trying to chip away at the lead you've amassed over the last 1,700ish miles of racing.  Your run has been clean, and both yourself and your gear is in as good of shape as you could have ever hoped for. You race into the refueling checkpoint, your machine is running, you have a helmet on, goggles on, and you're focusing on getting in and out as quickly as possible.  You've also got 1,700 miles of wear and tear on both your body and your brain, so you're tired and likely might even be a bit mentally exhausted as well. We saw in the Day 7 Update in a video interview with Tyson Johnson that the racers got to the checkpoint, began fueling, and after several seconds, looked back and saw the locals touching their sleds.  Tyson Johnson reports that once they realized this, they asked them to not touch their equipment. I think everyone also can agree that Team 8 really didn't 'need' this help in the first place and whether it was given or not, is inconsequential to the outcome of the race.  Heck, Tyson cratered one whole side of his sled in an accident on the Chena River and even considering this time and speed delay, its likely they still would have won with a 1 hour and 14 minute lead out of Tanana. Yesterday we saw a press release from the Iron Dog stating that: "In an effort to give Team 8 every opportunity to appeal the Rules or the final decision of the Race Marshals, the Iron Dog Board of Directors is calling a special session tonight to allow racers Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson to appear in person and provide their account of the situation, the reasons for their appeal and requested remedy." The gist of the situation is that the Iron Dog wants TnT to present their version of the events in writing.  They want TnT to describe, to the best of their abilities, what exactly transpired at the fuel stop (keep in mind Iron Dog already has written testimony from several people at the scene in question).  Also, from a brief timeline of events on the Iron Dog website, it seems that race officials are suggesting a slight change of story from the racers as neither of them made mention of telling the locals to stop touching their machines when first questioned about the situation. The Iron Dog wants to discuss with them what options may be acceptable and hopefully work toward a viable solution for everyone.  Does this look like monetary compensation for Team 8 as a 'meet in the middle' scenario? The Iron Dog certainly does not want this bad press, but at the same time, overturning a very specific violation could also drum up additional bad press and reduced integrity and credibility of the event, in light of public pressure. Was this a brief lapse in judgement and/or situational awareness by Team 8?  Was this an overreaching penalty that shouldn't have been enforced in the first place?  I guess we will wait and see.


The 2017 Iron Dog is officially over, and an official statement has been made regarding the conclusion of the race and the upholding of the disqualification decision.  Iron Dog posted a lengthy press release continuing to explain the appeal deliberations and the details surrounding the unanimous decision to uphold the ruling.  I believe that Jim Wilkes stated the situation well: “I’ve been involved with the Iron Dog since its inception and this has been the most challenging situation the organization has faced in its 34-year history. We know Team 8 racers, Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson are honorable young men and it is unfortunate that they are in this difficult position.” (emphasis mine) One question that has been going across everyone's mind is "What about next year?".  Will sponsors be hesitant to support both the racers and/or the organization itself?  Will racers be hesitant to invest both the time and money in preparations to compete in the event?  What will the rules state next year?  What will be in place to ensure this never happens again? The answers to these questions will be answered, but not right away.  The Iron Dog has been an Alaskan tradition for decades, spanning across two generations now.  What do I hope for?  I hope that, over time, some of these wounds would be healed, and that everyone will remember that the Iron Dog family can overcome this stain that is now on the race, and that, perhaps, we could see a third generation champion.


What an absolutely horrible development. Sorry this happened to both Tyson and Tyler. I think they got ripped off. What a joke… I’ll have to re think ever having any thing to do with this race or paying any attention to it again.. Doug

Doug glenn April 17, 2021

why watch a race that an official that was not there decide who wins. changing the rules is the only answer. this is petty, iwould agree if someone was helping change out a part but bouncing so they get more gas come on.

David April 17, 2021

It’s their job to declare this at the next checkpoint immediately assuming that they weren’t asking for help that is.
Since they didn’t declare it they didn’t protect themselves.

Jeff April 17, 2021

Defamation lawsuit

Bill April 17, 2021

1. I does seem they should have an official there for future races.
2. The racers should have declared this at the next checkpoint but neglected to do so.
3. Nobody likes a poor me attitude.
4. I agree.
5. Considering they burp at almost every other fueling stop I’d say yes they do believe that.
6. Those photos were taken of other teams at checkpoints not located between Ruby and Tanana. And some were metered out time penalties.
7. I agree they should have been allowed to finish.
8. The board made this rule because certain teams were taking advantage of an unpoliced area between checkpoints. Thus the harsh deterrent/penalty.

Jeff April 17, 2021

Why should racers have to monitor spectators?

G Brax April 17, 2021

The Iron Dog board has now up held the DQ. The biggest disappointment is that they have not given any acknowledgement that they handled things poorly.

Frank April 17, 2021

On a different article, it stated it’s. it a sanctioned checkpoint but just a small refueling stop between Ruby and Tanana. I know where this place is. Been there lot so of times, just a spectator taking a picture of the teams as they stop for fuel out front of her home. Yes, unfortunate as it is to snap a picture at that moment, if there were an official there, they would have seen it anyway.

Dustin April 17, 2021

Was that the K-400, Big Lake to Petersville, overnight, then back?

Ben Kleinenberg April 17, 2021

I believe they specified this location as there are no race officials there. Why I don’t know, but as someone mentioned earlier…what if this was a set up?

Ben Kleinenberg April 17, 2021

The re-fueling locations should have some type of side fencing to keep the spectators out of play. A race official should also be close at hand to discourage fan participation.
This needs to be a rule change for 2018.

Deral April 17, 2021

1. If you’re going to have a race with rules for this action that has a very serious penalty (disqualification) than every stop/refueling/rest should have a race board member at each checkpoint to assure no spectator or unauthorized person will have access to racers.

2. When does it become the racers responsibility to monitor spectators during the race?

3. What I find most disturbing is how it was stated many times concerning this problem and then it conveniently happened to the lead racers.

4. Poor management of the race and the security for the racers falls on the Iron Dog Board.

5. After all the hard work, training and expense these racers go through to prepare for this race, do you honestly believe any of them believe this would give an edge for a win and be worth taking a chance of being caught?

6. Why weren’t other racers disqualified when there are plenty of photos of the same actions by other teams?

7. The problem I see is poor management. Team 8 should have been allowed to finish, the board needed to not announce a winner till all teams actions were looked at. Team 8 wasn’t allowed to tell their side of what happened nor careful consideration of the party (unauthorized) that caused the problem. It was too easy to throw their hands up and state disqualified, now they want a statement IN WRITING like this is evidence of a crime.

8. The BOARD alone is responsible for neglect to run a fair race without obstruction to the racers, their safety or unauthorized person(s) while refueling or at any checkpoint in the race.

Gail Braxton April 17, 2021


RON April 17, 2021

How do they not know that this was not a photocroped picture ! And the iron dog marshals acted on pure speculation with no true wittiness facts

Brad O'Brien April 17, 2021

A couple days ago they said the riders did NOT know someone was laying/pushing on the back of their machines. Then yesterday an X rider heard them tell them to get off the machines. We snowmachined a lot and helped fueling for the 300 race big lake to petersville many yrs ago. As an avid snowmachiner, I knew Everytime some one was sitting or leaning on the back of my machine.
No help means no help. You can see in the picture, even if was a split second picture, you can not convince me—-
that being in a hurry, sitting close to their partner, and chatting with spectators, that they had NO idea of their surroundings.

Joann April 17, 2021

What you are missing in this article is that Iron Dog rules ALSO specifically state that complaints of rule violations and protests may only come from racers. Do I blame the Marshal for looking into the activities based on this photo? No, however no racer made a complaint. Technically this was a rule violation.

More importantly, the rules also state that ALL decisions on penalties are to be made in Nome for the northbound leg and in Fairbanks after the finish for the southbound leg. This means the teams should have been allowed to finish and then the issue taken up. It’s always easier and preferred to strip a place finish and move everyone up in rank vs put a new #1 in and push everyone down. That’s why EVERY SINGLE SPORTING EVENT ON EARTH does it this way. Imagine if the gold medalist in the olympics was told “sorry, another guy should have won, here you get silver instead”. Never happens and Iron dogs own rules would have prevented this. The race Marshal should not have issued a DQ prior to all teams crossing the finish and no one seems to be reporting on THAT rule violation.

B.J. April 17, 2021

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