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Mushing legend pushes driving career into high gear

August 11, 2018
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FILE - In this March 15, 2009 file photo, defending Iditarod champion Lance Mackey drives his team as he arrives first into the Unalakleet, Alaska checkpoint on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Although Mackey has established himself as one of the most triumphant mushers in sled dog racing, the Fairbanks resident also has been getting behind the wheel of race cars in recent years. (AP Photo/Al Grillo,File)

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — As a youngster, Lance Mackey had a need for speed.

“I always wanted to be in a race car of some sort,” the 48-year-old Mackey said during a recent phone interview. “I like to go fast, you know?”

Although Mackey has established himself as one of the most triumphant mushers in sled dog racing, the Fairbanks resident also has been getting behind the wheel of race cars in recent years.

He’s been a familiar face at the North Pole Speedway and has experienced success in Legend car races.

As somebody with a deep love for automobiles, Mackey was excited to find himself driving a Legend race car, a style of race car reminiscent of the old cars from the 1930s and ’40s.

“I grew up with cars. I’ve always had an attraction to hot rods and race cars,” he said. “I’ve had a couple pretty nice street cars over the years, and I had the rare opportunity to get in a Legend car.”

Mackey, a well-respected musher who’s captured four titles in both the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, is on track to take his racing game to the next level.

“I’m trying to escalate it,” he said.

He recently was given an opportunity to drive a late model car, similar to the ones seen in big-time NASCAR races.

“The late model is basically like what you see on TV in the Daytona 500,” Mackey said. “My little Legend car is the same concept, but it’s a totally different ride.”

Mackey plans to spend time in Alabama in November and December, practicing with the late model car. He’ll then return to Alaska and use it for a full season at Alaska Raceway Park in Palmer, where he was Saturday night, racing in his new car.

“If things go well, the following season I could potentially do the NASCAR circuit,” he said.

He’ll continue to race in the Legend car the next few weeks before switching to the late model at some point in August. Mackey has his sights set on getting down to Alabama, where he’ll be able to master the late model car, though he realizes leaving Alaska during that time of the year will have an impact on mushing.

“November and December is a pretty difficult time to take off,” he said. “I have a full plate of dog races scheduled for this winter, and I’ll be putting on a sprint team, too. I’ll have to find a way to balance to it all somehow.”

Whether he’s behind a wheel or a sled dog team, Mackey is happy to be on the move.

“I’m keeping busy,” he said. “I can’t complain about that.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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