Competitive Iron Dog teams started to arrive in Nome Tuesday. Team Number #8, Tyler Ecklestad of Palmer and Tyson Johnson of Eagle River, arrived at the 1000 mile halfway point along the Iron Dog trail just after 3:30 Tuesday afternoon. They won $10,000 for their effort, but they weren’t the first team to arrive in Nome.
The very first team driving this year’s IronDog trail arrived more than two hours earlier, though with little fanfare.
The crowd was tiny because Kent Smith and Frank Ferreira are part of the recreational class of racers, but there was one special person there to greet them.
“I’m the Mayor, welcome!” cried Mayor Richard Beneville, as he greeted the team.
The rec class race starts two days before the pro class. They usually arrive in Nome around the same time, but this is the finish line for the recreational racers.
Frank Ferreira isn’t new to Nome or the Iron Dog. He grew up in Kotzebue and raced in the pro class in 2012 and 2013. He wanted to race in the pro class again this year “I had a partner but he dropped out,” he said. ” I had some issues. I was supposed to actually run Team 19, but me and the partner weren’t getting along,” he said.
So, Ferreira teamed up with Marquette, Michigan native Kent Smith in the rec class. Smith said the best part about the thousand-mile trail is the people along the way. “Great people,” he said. “Everybody’s out there says hello [to] us and meets us… just great people.”
Nome is the finish line for rec class racers, but it’s only the halfway point for pro class racers. They have a long layover that includes a clocked repair session and a halfway banquet. They will turn around and head for the finish line in Fairbanks Thursday morning.