Sonny Lindner pulls out of Yukon Quest

To read the original article please visit: http://newsminer.com/2008/01/29/11149/The news was lamented by both Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race officials and mushers — Sonny Lindner, champion of the inaugural race, won’t be in the 25th running next month.Quest managing director Tania Simpson said Monday that Lindner withdrew by sending a fax on Friday to the Quest’s Fairbanks headquarters.“It was due to work-related business with his construction business. Another contract came up,” said Simpson, adding that she did not become aware of the fax until Monday.Simpson called the news “unfortunate.”“He’s probably as disappointed as we are not to run this year,” said Simpson who had not spoken personally with Lindner.Lindner, who operates Johnson River Enterprises in North Pole, could not be reached for comment at his home or office on Monday.Well respected by his mushing peers, Lindner has never been one to seek the spotlight.“One good reason for not winning is that you don’t have to talk to the press or give a speech at the (finish) banquet,” Lindner said long ago in the book “Yukon Quest” by John Firth.On the Quest Web site, Lindner cited participating in the Quest’s 25th running as the reason for signing up last August. He last ran the Quest in 1992, finishing runner-up. Lindner won the epic inaugural race in just over 12 days and also took fourth in 1986, sixth in 1989 and eighth in 1991.But this year Lindner signed up for both the Quest and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, something he’s attempted only once, in 1982.For the last 15 years, the Two Rivers musher, now 58, has concentrated on the Iditarod, entering that race nine times in that span.“I think that he’s focusing on the Iditarod (this year),” said Aaron Burmeister, who himself withdrew from the Quest last week, by telephone Monday night.The first public indication that Lindner might not be running came Saturday, when he did not show up for the food drop where supplies were collected to be sent to checkpoints between Fairbanks and Whitehorse.Lance Mackey, the Quest’s three-time defending champion, said Monday that Lindner is “way more qualified” than Mackey is as a musher. Though it improves his chances of winning an unprecedented fourth crown, Mackey was sad to hear that Lindner would not be racing.“That’s too bad. I was kind of looking forward to spending time on the trail with Sonny,” Mackey said by cell phone from Kasilof shortly after departing the awards ceremony for the Tustumena 200 which he won on Sunday.Burmeister, of Nenana, placed fifth last year in his rookie Quest run, but last week withdrew from the 2008 race.“The main reason why is I want to focus on Iditarod this year,” said Burmeister, who pondered the decision for about six weeks, by phone Monday night.Burmeister completed both races last year with the same dog team, taking fifth in the Quest and 13th in the Iditarod. But the logistics of finishing in Whitehorse and then heading almost straight to Anchorage for the Iditarod were also a deterrent.“If I’d be racing (the Quest), I’d be racing it to win. I’d be duking it out with Lance all the way to the finish line. If I did that I would not have the team strong for Iditarod,” Burmeister said. “I don’t have a kennel big enough to have two phenomenal teams.”Burmeister hasn’t given up on the Quest, however.“I definitely intend to race it again, but I feel that there needs to be a few changes and improvements made,” he said.Lindner and Burmeister were expected to be among the few capable of challenging Mackey in the race that begins in downtown Fairbanks on Feb. 9 and ends in Whitehorse, Yukon, two weeks later.“It’s a bummer. You’ve got a race between Dan Kaduce, Ken Anderson and Lance Mackey now,” Burmeister predicted.Burmeister said his friend Lindner would have been competitive in the Quest.“Sonny has a very strong racing team. He was certainly one of the top contenders,” Burmeister said.Others to withdraw in recent weeks are Trent Herbst (”logistics and time constraints”), Jeremie Matrishon (”not enough training time”) and Mike Mayer (did not complete qualifiers), bringing the number of remaining mushers to 24.The inaugural race saw 26 mushers start. The largest field was 47 starters in 1988 and 1989; the smallest was 21 in 1996 and 2005.

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