ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A veteran dog sled racer plans to rejoin Alaska’s famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race this year, although he was forced to qualify under rules governing rookies.

Jim Lanier of Chugiak was denied entry into the 2020 Iditarod in August. But he expects to be back at the starting line in March, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The 79-year-old re-qualified for the race by completing a pair of 300-mile (483-kilometer) races this winter, the Kuskokwim 300 in Bethel and the Willow 300 in Willow.

“They said per Iditarod rules if I want to run this year and do a late sign-up, I’d just have to follow the rules and run the qualifying races. So that’s what I did,” Lanier said.

Lanier is a 16-time Iditarod finisher who first completed the race in 1979. He will be the oldest musher in this year’s field.

Lanier scratched in his last four attempts in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Race officials denied his 2020 entry in part because of his performance in 2018, when he and fellow musher Scott Janssen had to be rescued while pinned down by bad weather along the Bering Sea coast.

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Iditarod rules require a rookie musher to run at least two qualifying races before gaining entry to the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race from Willow to Nome.

Lanier ran the 2019 Yukon Quest, finishing 24th out of 27 mushers, as well as the shorter qualifying races this winter. Lanier’s team finished 19th out of 21 teams in Bethel, while in Willow his team was fifth out of 32 finishers.

“I just took it on as a challenge,” said Lanier, who noted this year’s team might be his best ever.