A pack of Iditarod mushers followed champion Lance Mackey and runner-up Jeff King across the Nome finish line this morning and early afternoon, creating a scrum for payouts as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race finished for the frontrunners.
In a race in which the difference beween third place and ninth place is $23,100, mushers hustled for every second on the home stretch between White Mountain and Nome.
By early afternoon, nine had finished.
The closest battle was for fourth place, with Ken Anderson of Fairbanks edging Martin Buser of Big Lake by just 44 seconds. Those 44 seconds were worth $3,400 to Anderson -- the difference between fourth- and fifth-place money.
In order, the finishers were:
Third -- Ramey Smyth of Big Lake in 9 days, 18 hours, 52 minutes, with eight dogs in harness. It's was Smyth's best Iditarod finish ever. He earned $61,400.
Fourth -- Anderson in 9 days, 19 hours, 11 minutes, with 13 dogs in harness, another personal-best performance. He earned $57,800. Anderson was a close runner-up to Mackey in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race last month.
Fifth -- Buser in 9 days, 19 hours, 12 minutes, with 13 dogs in harness. Buser put on a mighty push during the last 22-mile stretch from Safety to Nome, with the fastest time yet -- 2 hours, 50 minutes -- but came up just short of fourth. He earned $54,400.
Sixth -- Hans Gatt of Whitehorse, Yukon, in 9 days, 20 hours, 21 minutes, with 12 dogs in harness. The three-time Yukon Quest champion produced his finest Iditarod to date, by far, in his ninth try. His previous best was 12th in 2000. He earned $51,100.
Seventh -- Mitch Seavey of Sterling in 9 days, 20 hours, 43 minutes, with nine dogs in harness. The 2004 champion earned $48,000.
Eighth -- Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof in 9 days, 21 hours, 18 minutes, with 11 dogs in harness. The two-time runner-up ran at the front of the race until he got lost and turned around on the Yukon River near Cripple. He earned $45,000.
Ninth -- Kjetil Backen of Norway in 9 days, 21 hours, 25 minutes, with 11 dogs in harness. This year's driver of the best dogs from Team Norway nearly caught Gebhardt on the stretch run. He earned $42,000.
One indication of how competitive the last stretch was -- six of the top nine made the 22-mile run from Safety in less than 3 hours, 2 minutes, a very strong time.