Nayokpuk never won the Iditarod, but he earned unparalleled respect and admiration from fellow mushers for his toughness and kindness. Known as the Shishmaref Cannonball, the Inupiaq Eskimo was wildly popular in villages along the trail and was a role model throughout rural Alaska. Nayokpuk raced in 11 Iditarods, including the inaugural race in 1973, and recorded eight top-10 finishes. In 1983, at age 53, he finished fourth — five months after undergoing open-heart surgery.