Polaris-Sponsored Iron Dog Ambassadors

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Polaris Terrain Domination will be showcased by several teams competing in the grueling Iron Dog race across Alaska, and by the Iron Dog Ambassadors, a Polaris-sponsored group of four riders who will run the racecourse to promote the event and thank volunteers in remote towns and villages.

The Iron Dog Ambassadors will start the race with Trail-class teams in Big Lake, Alaska, on Friday, Feb. 17. Pro teams will start in Big Lake two days later.

The Ambassadors will run the racecourse on Polaris PRO-RIDE performance models ahead of the Pro teams to promote the event and spread goodwill across Alaska.

They will visit schools and civic groups and thank residents in remote towns and villages for volunteering with the race.

The 2012 Iron Dog Ambassadors are:

– Mike Bedard, Polaris Snowmobile Engineering Manager, Trail Performance and Race
– Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski of the Alaska National Guard, the race’s main sponsor
– Evan Booth, who won the Iron Dog in 1992 and 1994 aboard Polaris Indy snowmobiles
– Dan Zipay, a five-time winner of the Iron Dog – all on Polaris Indy models – who is a member of the Iron Dog Hall of Fame.

Bedard, 43, is a long-time Polaris rider, a former snowmobile racer and a veteran of the U.S. Army and Army National Guard. He joined the Polaris snowmobile engineering team in 1991 as a development technician operating engine dynos. He has played a significant role in the development of numerous Polaris snowmobiles, including the snocross race sleds of recent years and the 600 Switchback Adventure models that the Ambassadors helped introduce last year.

Bedard was an Iron Dog Ambassador in 2011, the first year of the outreach program, as was Lt. Col. Lawendowski. Booth and Zipay are first-time Ambassadors but both are familiar with racing in and winning the Iron Dog. Booth and Zipay won the race as teammates in 1992 and 1994, and Zipay won it with John Faeo as his teammate in 1986, 1987 and 1988.

“It was an honor to take part in the race last winter, and we look forward to spreading goodwill and appreciation to volunteers as Iron Dog Ambassadors in 2012,” said Bedard. “The race runs through some extremely remote areas, and the residents of those towns and villages are vital to the racers’ survival and the race’s success.”

The Ambassadors won’t officially compete for the Trail-class victory, but will maintain a competitive pace. Their plan is to arrive in Nome on Feb. 21, service their sleds and leave the next day to run the second half of the racecourse ahead of the Pros, spreading goodwill all the way to the finish line in Fairbanks.

In 2011, the Ambassador team left Nome headed for Fairbanks but a fierce winter storm near the coast forced them back to Nome, which they reached only after a harrowing overnight battle through sea ice and ocean overflow.

Sixteen of 31 Pro teams and nine of 17 Trail teams will race on Polaris snowmobiles – including Trail Team 51, the Iron Dog Ambassadors.

The Polaris Pro teams include Team 6, which has two-time defending race winner Tyler Huntington paired with Tre West. Team 10 has two-time defending race winner Chris Olds paired with Mike Morgan.

Last year, four of the top seven Pro teams to finish were on Polaris snowmobiles. This year’s Pro teams includes Team 2, comprised of Polaris racers Ryan Sottosanti and Andrea Zwink, who finished sixth in the 2011. Polaris racer Arnold Marks, Jr., who was on the team that finished seventh last year, is teamed with Archie Agnes on Team 40.

The Pro teams will start in Big Lake on Sunday, Feb. 19, race to Nome, the traditional half-way point for Pro teams, then restart in Nome and race to the Feb. 25 finish in downtown Fairbanks. The race course covers slightly more than 2,000 miles.

It’s easy for Polaris dealers and their customers to follow Iron Dog teams online as they race across Alaska. Every race team – including the Ambassadors, Team 51 – has GPS units on their sleds so they can be tracked and, if necessary, located by search teams.

Polaris in Iron Dog History

The first Iron Dog race was run in 1984, and was won by the Polaris team of John Faeo and Rod Frank. Faeo has been part of six winning Polaris teams.

The Iron Dog has been run 26 times (it was cancelled in 2003), and Polaris teams have won it 13 times, the most of any brand. Those wins include the past three races, as Polaris racers Chris Olds and Tyler Huntington won in 2010 and 2011, and Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad won in 2009.

Teams that have won the Iron Dog on Polaris sleds are:

2011: Chris Olds & Tyler Huntington
2010: Chris Olds & Tyler Huntington
2009: Todd Minnick & Nick Olstad
2001: Tracey Brassard & Ken Lee
1996: John Faeo & Bob Gilman
1995: Todd Palin & Dwayne Drake
1994: Dan Zipay & Evan Booth
1992: Dan Zipay & Evan Booth
1991: John Faeo & Bob Gilman
1988: John Faeo & Dan Zipay
1987: John Faeo & Dan Zipay
1986: John Faeo & Dan Zipay
1984: John Faeo & Rod Frank

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