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Iron Dog Update: Top Teams Out of McGrath

By Josh Staab, Digital Content Supervisor, jstaab@ktuu.com
Published On: Feb 17 2014 10:00:00 AM AKST

Moments after pulling into the checkpoint in McGrath, Iron Dog racer Mike Morgan's snowmachine burst into flames as the rider attempted to fuel up his sled. Prior to the minor explosion, flames were clearly visible emitting from the bottom of the sled's manifold. It appeared the open flame came into contact with either the fuel itself or its vapors. Morgan was briefly engulfed by the spreading flames, but was quickly tackled to the ground by onlookers who patted the racer down before another came in with an extinguisher dousing the flames on the racer and then the machine.

ANCHORAGE -

The top teams were out of McGrath Monday morning after most took 14 hours of rest at the checkpoint.

Adjustments to the race schedule this year require three rest stops on the way to Nome: two eight-hour rests and a single six-hour rest. Most teams took a combined 14 hour layover at McGrath, with the first teams leaving the checkpoint just after 11 a.m.

Team 10, Mike Morgan and Chris Olds, were first out of McGrath around 11:20 a.m., despite having a later start than race leaders Tyler Aklestead and Tyson Johnson of Team 8. Gap times were zeroed from the staggered start after the 14-hour layover.

Morgan and Olds seemed undaunted by a sudden fire that engulfed Morgan's sled as he pulled into McGrath Sunday night.

Morgan's sled burst into flames as the rider attempted to fuel up his sled. Prior to the minor explosion, flames were clearly visible from the bottom of the sled's manifold. It appeared the open flame came into contact with either the fuel itself or its vapors. After both the sled and its rider were extinguished, further examination of the damage revealed only minor repairs necessary to the gauntlets and other non-mechanical components.

Aklestead and Johnson were delayed leaving McGrath first, with repairs needed to Aklestead's sled's suspension. Aklestead hoped a quick fix would keep the sled together till the team could better examine the issue in Nome. The team eventually did leave McGrath.

Team 17, reigning champs Marc McKenna and Dusty VanMeter, departed McGrath just before 11:30.

As most teams rest up and wait to hit the trail again tonight, two teams have scratched: Team 14, Mark and Mike Tope of Anchorage, were non-starters out of Big Lake.

Rookie team 37, Mike Dropik and Marcus Jensen, scratched out of Shell Lake due to injuries.

Check Channel 2 broadcasts and visit KTUU.com for the latest on Iron Dog 2104.