Mitch Seavey wins Alaska Sweepstakes and $100,000

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2008

ANCHORAGE - The richest prize in Alaska sled dog racing has been claimed by a veteran musher from Seward.

Mitch Seavey finished 10 minutes ahead of Jeff King of Denali Park on Friday night to claim the $100,000 prize in the winner-take-all All Alaska Sweepstakes.

The 408-mile event is a race from Nome to tiny Candle and back. The race was first held 100 years ago. The last race was in 1983.

With the $48,000 Seavey earned for finishing seventh in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race between Anchorage and Nome, plus the $20,000 prize he claimed for winning the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race in January, Seavey is the leading money winner in Alaska's state sport.

Seavey won the Iditarod in 2004.

"I never thought anything could surpass winning the Iditarod," Seavey said, "but this a rare event and a pretty nice prize."

Namesakes of the Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears led the way for Seavey. He had dogs named Payton, as in Walter, and Ditka, as in Mike, in front of the team for the finish.

"They're the best," he said.

King finished second only weeks after doing the same in the Iditarod and missing the chance to take his fifth title.

King looked to have the Sweepstakes in his grasp at the halfway mark when he took the lead over Iditarod champ Lance Mackey. Mackey, whose dogs have seemed invincible for the past two years, finally started to fade there.

But Seavey and his dogs passed the 53-year-old King with less than 50 miles to go.

Seavey finished with all 10 dogs in harness at 11:29 p.m. Friday.

Seavey finished in roughly 61 hours, slashing more than half a day off the record time of 74 hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds set in 1910 by John "Iron Man" Johnson.

Seavey's victory saved race organizers from what was shaping up as a possible post-race controversy over who won. Race officials led mushers to believe that despite a start that saw 16 dog teams leave Nome two minutes apart, the winner would be the driver of the first team back to Nome.

After mushers left, however, race marshal Al Crane said the winner would be decided by elapsed time.

"I don't want them (mushers) to know all the information," Crane said.

King left Nome four minutes in front of Seavey. If Seavey had finished less than four minutes behind King, Seavey could have been the winner despite being second into Nome.

Seavey's team, the 12th of the 16 to start, made it a non-issue by passing everyone in front of him.

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