Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Fairbanks truck driver wins Alcan crown at 111 mph


A 52-year-old Fairbanks truck driver averaged a speed of 110.6 mph to win Saturday’s Alcan 200, topping a field of 25 racers.

Racing in his fourth Alcan, Steve Cornwall stepped up this year to a 600cc engine installed in his 2000 XC 500 SP model Polaris machine. “It’s 18 more horsepower and I was able to go nine more miles per hour than last year,” he said.

Cornwall credited his win to mechanic Ken Persinger, who recently installed the new engine and fixed the machine’s “bogie” wheels at the Dezadeash halfway point pit stop. Bogie wheels drive a sled’s rubberized track and can come apart with heat and friction of riding on hard surfaces.

Starting from the sixth position, Cornwall was second into Dezadeash and finished third on the return trip, dueling for miles with Troy Williams of Fairbanks, who finished the two-stage race in third place. “It was totally a dogfight,” Cornwall said.

Jack Smith Jr. of Haines finished second overall, 15 seconds behind Cornwall.

Race organizer Kathi Lapp said 23 of 25 racers completed the race, an unusually high percentage. In some years, breakdowns sideline as many as 40 percent of entrants.

Lapp said ideal road conditions made the race easy on sleds. “Once they got over the pass, it was clear blue skies from treeline on, and the road was excellent. It was totally snowpacked except for that first little bit.”

Some racers struggled with slush near the start and finish line just west of Canada Customs. Lapp said that section is unlikely to be cut from the race because the straight-away there serves as a “good, long runout” for the finish.

Finisher Phil Wood of Fairbanks, a 13-year Alcan veteran, said unpredictability is part of the Alcan’s appeal. “There’s nothing normal about this race. It’s the last great race for snowmachines, in terms of a speed run, plus it’s a lot of fun. But you never know what you’re going to get.”

Cornwall’s earnings included $1,000 for overall winner, $500 for fastest visiting sled and additional money from the Calcutta auction of racers.

Race organizer Lapp said Cornwall was one of about 10 participants from Fairbanks. “They kind of stole the show this year.”

Haines, however, also fielded about 10 racers, Lapp said, including Josh Moore, who won rookie of the year honors, and Lyn Campbell, the only woman to enter. Campbell was disqualified for making a U-turn at a gas stop, a technical error, but she finished the race. “It was the last gas stop, so it was heartbreaking. But to finish that race on your first time is awesome,” Lapp said.

She said she was especially pleased with the interest from Haines this year. About five racers came from Whitehorse, Y.T. and Haines Junction, she said.

The race attracted no machines of the largest class allowed, 750 Open. A sled from that class set the race record, an average speed of 120 mph. “These are all the smaller machines,” Lapp said. One Fairbanks racer from the large-engine class had problems getting equipment and didn’t make the race, she said.

The two machines that dropped out of the race both broke down near Mule Creek, Lapp said.

Winners included: Overall: 1) Steve Cornwall, 2) Jack Smith Jr., 3) Troy Williams; 0-440 Fan: 1) Dan Dickerson, 1:46:59, 2) Nick Martin, 1:50:12, 3) Mario Poulin, 1:51:25; 441 Open Fan: 1) Ken Schamber, 1:46:53, 2) Randy Wood, 1:47:12, 3) Phil Wood, 1:50:58; 0-440 Liquid: 1) Justin Pederson, 1:29:45, 2) George Juhlin, 1:30:21, 3) Gene Bloom, 1:40:25; 441-600 Liquid: 1) Steve Cornwall, 1:25:04, 2) Troy Williams, 1:25:52, 3) Nathan Pederson, 1:27:31; 601-750 Liquid: 1) Jack Smith Jr., 1:25:19, 2) Rick Campbell, 1:28:00, 3) Zack Ferrin, 1:42:09; Fastest Rookie: Josh Moore; Fastest Local: Jack Smith Jr.; Oldest Sled: Mario Poulin; Poor Broke Down: Justin Derr; Red Lantern: Blake Wade.


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