Nome father-and-son duo to race in the 2022 Iron Dog
By Peter Loewi
Evan and Steffen Booth are all in for the Iron Dog.
The father-and-son team bring a unique mix of experience and youth to the trail: father Evan, 53, first raced in 1990 and won with Dan Zipay in 1992 and 1994, but Steffen wasn’t born until 2005. Evan was inducted in the Iron Dog Hall of Fame in 2018.
Before all of preparation, Steffen was pretty relentless, Evan said, and wouldn’t stop bothering him about it. A father had petitioned the organizers to allow their 16-year-old son to race last year, why couldn’t the Booths do it, too?
Around the end of September, 2021, they started preparing. And in all of those five months, the most fun has been seeing the progress, said Steffen. Evan explained that “this is basically stage 1 of his Iron Dog racing career. He’s going to learn, and I’m still going to help. In three or four years, he’ll have it.”
Despite Steffen being a rookie, Evan thinks that they’re in a good position. “I think that we’re a top 10 team. And we have the potential to finish in the top five. You gotta have some luck in this race, and with some luck, and everything goes our way, we have fun the whole time, that’s a win in itself.”
Preparation is key, Evan said, for both rider and machine. “At 53, I feel pretty good,” he said. “This is the most excited and at ease I’ve been at the race. I just gotta go out and have a good time with my kid.”
That’s not to say it will be easy, by any stretch of the imagination. After all, the Iron Dog is a grueling race that takes teams over a distance of 2,645 miles from Wasilla via Nome to Kotzebue, and then back to Wasilla. “You have to have a high standard of tenacity,” Evan said. The first day is anywhere from 8 to 10 hours to McGrath and the longest he’s been out of the trail was 20 to 24 hours straight. “Then there’s the part where you have issues, and you have to be prepared. You have to want to deal with it. If you give up, you might as well pack up and go home,” he said.
Preparing for the race has been a full family affair. Taylor Booth, daughter to Evan and sibling to Steffen, was hired for the management side of things, doing applications, fundraising thousands of dollars and keeping fans apprised on social media and they of course had to get the blessing of wife/mother, Crystal. Asked who his inspiration is to tackle such a race, Steffen answered: his dad, his late brother Chase and his friend, the late Nick Reader.
The Booths are racing Polaris 600 Cross Country Indy machines, designed for cross-country racing. Evan says, “they are probably the best platforms that Polaris has ever come up with for the Iron Dog.” The Booths’ sleds are two of only about 150. They are set up exactly the same, and everything is interchangeable, from the auxiliary tanks to the spare helmet visors. Going over the sleds in his garage, Evan explained that “this stuff has evolved tremendously through the years.” When he first raced in 1990, they didn’t have GPS.
This year, not only do they have state-of-the-art GPS, they’ve also just flown over the Kotzebue portion of the course to familiarize themselves with the trail even before they train on it. They plan to finish the machines and then riding the Kotzebue loop on Friday, before flying to Anchorage on Monday, February 7. Once there, they have other machines to ride, which they expect to put 1,200-1,500 miles on. “Planning to ride, play and relax up to the race start. And that’s how it’s done!” Evan said.
It’s been a few years since Evan’s last Iron Dog, and he said that Team 10, Nome racer Mike Morgan and racing partner Chris Olds, have been very gracious in sharing knowledge. Evan, in return, has helped them, in the past, too. “A lot of guys come to me, they’ll come to me for advice or help,” Booth said.
This is especially true during the wrench time component of the Iron Dog, when racers work on their machines for a day in the Nome Public Works Building. Asked, in his own home garage, if there is a home-court advantage to that, Evan said “Yeah, it’s a lot easier to deal with here because I live here. If I need something, I know where to go.”
It certainly helps to have the community cheering for you, as well. The Booths have a list of sponsors so long they couldn’t all fit into this article.
Asked what he wants his supporters to know about his race, Steffen said, “I’m doing what I love to do, and I’m doing that with my dad.”
“I think he loves that I like to go fast,” dad Evan said. “I think he’s going to do just fine. I’m going to be a big cheerleader for him.”
The Iron Dog racers leave the Curtis Menard Memorial Center in Wasilla at noon on Saturday, February 19. The first pro riders are expected in Nome on Tuesday, February 22 and the Pro Class finish will be Wasilla on February 26.
Other Nomeites participating in this year’s Iron Dog are Jarvis and Jordan Miller; Cody Moen, and Mike Morgan. Look for articles featuring Nome competitors in future Nome Nugget editions.