After taking its usual break in Nome, the Iron Dog snowmachine race got back on track Thursday with an early morning restart.
Several hours and about 270 miles later, the two top teams were still neck-and-neck.
Defending champions Marc McKenna of Anchorage and Dusty VanMeter of Kasilof led by a scant four minutes over Eric Quam of Wasilla and Brian Dick of Thief River Falls, Minn., when the frontrunners reached Unalakleet shortly after noon Thursday.
The Ski-Doo team of McKenna and VanMeter reached Unalakleet at 12:25 p.m. Quam and Dick, riding Arctic Cats, arrived at 12:29 p.m.
Four minutes is a huge gap considering how close the teams were when they reached Nome on Tuesday.
Quam and Dick got there first, 23 seconds ahead of McKenna-VanMeter. But officials later realized that because of a time-keeping error, Quam and Dick had been released one minute too early from a previous checkpoint. That mean McKenna and VanMeter made the trip from Big Lake to Nome 37 seconds faster than Quam-Dick, and were awarded the race's $10,000 halfway prize.
Both teams declared 10-hour layovers upon reaching Unalakleet.
In third place, 48 minutes behind McKenna-VanMeter, were Brad George and Aaron Bartel, who reached Unalakleet at 1:13 p.m. Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson got there at 1:16 p.m. Both of those teams also elected to take 10-hour layovers in Unalakleet.
The fifth-place team of Chris Olds and Mike Morgan, who arrived at 1:39 p.m., paused for just a couple of minutes before taking off for Kaltag. They got there at 3:38 p.m. and settled in for their layover.
The 2,031-mile race started Sunday in Big Lake and will end Saturday in Fairbanks.