NOME, Alaska – Lance Mackey won the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday to become the first musher in the event’s 38-year history to win four consecutive races.
Fans cheered the throat cancer survivor as his team coasted up the main street of this old Gold Rush town. For winning, Mackey, 39, gets a new Dodge truck and $50,400. He finished the race in eight days, 23 hours and 59 minutes – the second-fastest finish in race history.
“These are my heroes right here,” Mackey said as he was giving his dogs a pat on their heads and a kiss.
Mackey said his relationship with his team is more rewarding than winning another truck.
“They might not be the fastest team in this race, but I think they have the biggest hearts,” he said.
The Iditarod kicked off March 6 with a ceremonial start in Anchorage. That was followed by the competitive start the following day in Willow when 71 teams took to the Iditarod trail.
This year’s purse was significantly less than last year when Mackey took home a truck and $69,000. The total purse is $590,000 – down from a high of $925,000 in 2008. Iditarod officials said the struggling economy caused some sponsors to pull their support for the race.
Much of the race again this year was a duel between Mackey – whose father Dick and brother Rick are past winners – and another mushing royal, four-time champion Jeff King, who said this will be his last Iditarod.
King had been leading much of the race but was overtaken by Mackey on Saturday about 350 miles from the finish.
In the final stretch, Hans Gatt chased Mackey hard, pushing ahead of King in Elim on Monday. Gatt, 51, was expected to arrive second in Nome. King, 54, was expected to be third.