Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Still the King, Former King, or King Emeritus?

Photo by Tony Wright
We all know unequivocally that Jeff King is part of Iditarod royalty with his 4 wins, but will he ever again be the first to arrive under the burled arches of Nome?  King and the Iditarod community at large made a big deal about his retirement in 2010 after his 3rd place finish; but his retirement was short lived, i.e., only one year. King is the top Iditarod money winner with career winnings of $808K. It is worth noting that Lance Mackey's winnings (also 4 wins) are about 1/2 that, but King has about 20 more finisher belt buckles in his collection!

King is the consummate inventor. He brought us the Iditarod Barcolounger in 2004 (with seatbelt) and heated handle bars in 2006. There hasn't been any news of inventions of late coming out of the Husky Homestead research labs, but one can only hope.

Last year when King came out of retirement he was running about 4th place with fast run times for much of the race until his team hit a metaphorical wall 12 miles outside Unalakleet and he was forced to scratch. He's back this year, but one has to ask can he make it all the way to Nome this year and if he does, does he have a chance of winning it all and joining only Rick Swenson as a 5-time Iditarod winner?

King finished 12th in 2009, 2nd in 2008, 5th in 2007 and in 2006 he was the first to Nome. 2006 also corresponds with the last time King won the always competitive and always interesting Kuskokwim K300 race. He brought 12 dogs across the finish line in Bethel to place first among a competitive field including Tony Browning (Aaron Burmeister's dogs), Pete Kaiser, Paul Gebhardt, Rohn and Martin Buser, John Baker and Ken Anderson among others. He was King of the Kusko this year, but will he be back as King of the Iditarod?