Repeat champ leads pack as Alaska's Iditarod dog sled race enters home stretch

Mon Mar 14, 2016 11:50pm EDT
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By Steve Quinn

JUNEAU, Alaska (Reuters) - One musher in Alaska's grueling sled-dog race appears to stand between Dallas Seavey's third consecutive Iditarod title and a painful second place finish – his father, Mitch.

As competitors in the nearly 1,000-mile race through the U.S. state's frigid wilderness, father and son have been exchanging the lead while being pushed by upstart Brent Sass and perennial contender Aliy Zirkle.

Based on last year's times, a winner could cross the finish line in Nome as early as 4 a.m. local time (1200 GMT) on Tuesday.

Dallas Seavey, who is looking for his third successive title and fourth win overall, left White Mountain late afternoon, about 77 miles (124 km) from the finish line. His father departed about 30 minutes later.

At White Mountain, all mushers must take a mandatory 8-hour rest, so the son was able to leave first. Last year, son and father finished first and second.

"We all know too well what can happen," Dallas Seavey said in an interview posted on the Iditarod website. "I have way too much respect for my competitors to say I've won it anytime before we’ve actually crossed the finish line."

Should either Seavey prevail, it would be the fifth straight year a family member has won the race.

Dallas, now 29, won in 2012 to become the youngest winner in race history. Mitch, now 56, won in 2013 to become the oldest competitor to win - it was his second victory.   Continued...

Dallas Seavey and team leave the start chute at the restart of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, Alaska March 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Nathaniel Wilder