Duos also need to complement each other's skills. For instance, one might be a good mechanic and the other a solid navigator.
"Todd's role has always been to be supportive and to be the more even-handed guy," Wilke said.
"He's known in snowmobiling circles as not being the fastest guy out there, but he's very steady, he's a very supportive teammate," he said.
The snowmobile competition has not been without its challenges. Because it follows the northern route of the famed Iditarod race to Nome, resistance to the route was met early on from dog mushers who didn't want the snowmobile race on the trail.
Wilke, who helped get the race off the ground in the mid 1980s, recalled Friday that problems with regulations and permits sparked an "organizational nightmare" warranting a series of Bureau of Land Management hearings.
With the Alaska Range surrounding the Anchorage area in a ring, "there's only a couple ways outta here," Wilke said.
"You've got to get over those mountains somehow," he said. "That's why the Iditarod trail went the way it did."
"I don't think many people really understand the amount of effort and frustration it took to get the race started, it was a real knock-down, drag-out fight with the dog mushers the first couple of years," recalled founder Bob Kowalke before last year's race. "There were BLM advisory meetings, BLM hearings, lawsuits, court injunctions and we were vilified in the newspapers."
Others still question whether snowmobiles do too much damage to the environment, contributing to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Debate about whether to allow snowmobiles in national parks has coalesced most recently in a fight about whether to keep a pass in Yellowstone National Park open to snowmobiles in the winter.
A 2006 report from the National Parks Conservation Association said that motor vehicles in some places "collectively are the greatest polluters of the parks."
Meantime, federal public lands not designated as a national park, like the land through which the Iron Dog travels, is less restricted to snowmobilers. About 80 million acres in Alaska is federal public land, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
Bedard said that these days, "Snowmobiles are getting better and better on fuel economy," adding that they average about ten miles per gallon, though some are far more fuel efficient.
Meantime, Todd Palin and his competitors have set their sights on the race this February.
In addition to winning the 2007 race with Davis, Palin was part of a winning duo in 2000 and 2002, when he raced with Dusty Van Meter, and in 1995, with partner Dwayne Drake.
Still, should McCain and Sarah Palin take the White House in November, the trip back for a February 8 race start could be a bit more of an effort.
"I'd be interesting to follow up and see what would happen," Bedard said. "And that's going to be yet determined in November."