Mitch Seavey continued to push the pace in the Iditarod, driving a team of 13 sled dogs into Takotna well ahead of his pursuers Tuesday night.
The defending champion reached the checkpoint at 9:45 p.m. and was still there after midnight, perhaps settling in for his mandatory 24-hour rest.
Ray Redington Jr. was the second to reach Takotna, arriving 2.5 hours after Seavey at 12:18 a.m. Wednesday. Seavey was 30 minutes faster than Redington on the 18-mile run from McGrath to Takotna.
Seavey started putting distance between himself and the rest of the frontrunners earlier Tuesday.
He dropped his third dog of the race in Nikolai and then ran about 50 miles to McGrath in 6 hours, 29 minutes — 24 minutes faster than anyone else. Joar Ulsom, who was second to McGrath, clocked 6:53 and 13th-place Mats Petterson registered 6:55, but no one else in the top 15 broke seven hours.
While Seavey paused in McGrath only long enough to pick up a prize, Ulsom stayed for three hours. He was the sixth team to leave following Seavey, Redington, Jessie Royer, Linwood Fiedler and Aliy Zirkle.
Three of the top five mushers into McGrath are taking their 24-hour layovers there — Nicolas Petit, Wade Marrs and Ryan Redington.
Petit told Iditarod Insider that a "very slow" and "taxing" run from Nikolai, in warm temperatures on a soft trail, persuaded him to take his layover in McGrath.
"That was a long 52 miles, and soft trail," Petit said. "Every time it got good it got turned to soft stuff again by another group of snowmachines."
Recharging his team now could make a difference as the race gets closer to Nome, Petit told the Insider.
"If I want a competitive end to the race — and placement has to matter — I have to use my time appropriately, and leaving here in 24 hours, at night, will be productive," he said.
Defending champion Mitch Seavey was the first musher to reach McGrath on Tuesday night, and he didn't stay long.
Seavey and his team of 13 dogs reached the checkpoint at 7:22 p.m. He stayed long enough to accept the Pen Air Spirit of Alaska award for being the first musher to McGrath, and four minutes later he was back on the trail and headed for Takotna.
Joar Ulsom was the second to arrive at 7:59 p.m. with a full team of 16 dogs. He made the 48-mile run from Nikolai to McGrath in 6 hours, 53. Seavey made the run in 6:29.
As the Spirit of Alaska winner, Seavey will receive a framed print from Iditarod artist Jon Van Zyle.