Dallas Seavey greets his daughter Annie and wife Jen under the burled arch. Seavey arrived at the finish line to claim victory in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome, Alaska, on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. Seavey is the youngest musher to win the nearly 1,000-mile race across Alaska. (AP Photo/Marc Lester, Anchorage Daily News)
NOME, Alaska (AP) — Mushers always pose with their lead dogs under the burled arch in Nome, Alaska, after winning the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
When Dallas Seavey won Tuesday, he posed with Diesel and Guinness, but he could have used a little more podium space.
"I had five lead dogs on this team, and I had to have every single one of them to do their parts of the race," Seavey said shortly after becoming the youngest champion in the race's 40-year history.
Seavey turned 25 on March 4, the day the race officially started north of Anchorage. He was the first musher to reach Nome, his nine dogs trotting under the famous burled-arch finish line in the Bering Sea coastal community at 7:29 p.m. Tuesday.
Some dogs are better in bad weather, others when speed is needed.
Guinness was only lead for a short bit of the race but earned the podium spot because of her sure-footedness on glacier ice near the Rohn checkpoint.
The glare ice combined with windy conditions swept many mushers into driftwood.
"I stopped in Rohn, took her booties off so she'd have a little more traction, and we drove right there like I had a little remote control lead dog up front," Seavey said.
"She could have saved me hours in that one short stretch right there."
Seavey described his dog team as a team that had the ability to win the Iditarod, but not a team that could win the race "no matter what."
He said it was a fragile team, but a perfect team if built correctly.
"We spent most of the race building a monster, a dog team that could not be stopped," he said.
But it required exercising a lot of patience, holding back the young team until it was time to set them loose.
"By the end of the race, we were ready to start using that stored energy," Seavey said.
Once he did take command of the race, at the Unalakleet checkpoint, he said it took every bit of the dogs' ability — not to mention his own — to fend off mushers Aliy Zirkle and Aaron Burmeister.
"They had phenomenal teams out there," Seavey said of his main competitors. "I'm very impressed with those guys and excited to race with them in future years."
Zirkle finished the Iditarod second, and Ramey Smyth came in third. Burmeister finished fourth.
The mutual admiration between Seavey and Zirkle was evident when she addressed fans at the Nome Convention Center and invited Seavey on stage with her.
"Dallas ran a really good race," Zirkle said. "There's a lot of people who I'm sure are looking at all the Ps and Qs of how this race was run. I can tell you the one thing that Dallas and I did, we watched our dogs and we run our dogs, and I really respect that out of you, Dallas.
"I would rather still have the trophy," she joked.
The race was a Seavey family affair this year, with three generations of Seavey men in the race. Dallas Seavey's father, Mitch Seavey, finished in seventh place. Dallas' 74-year-old grandfather, Dan, is running in his fifth Iditarod to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Iditarod Trail and was running Wednesday toward the back of the pack. His trip to Nome is being sponsored by the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance to highlight the rich history of the trail.
"It's kind of what we do," Dallas Seavey said when asked about the legacy.
Both of the younger Seaveys are extremely competitive.
When asked if it was bittersweet that his dad wasn't in Nome to see his finish, he said he wished Mitch Seavey could have been there but joked it might not have worked out so well for the two.
"If I had to pick between being here first and having him here for the finish, I'll see him at Christmas," Dallas Seavey said.
He is a former Alaska high school wrestling champion and also spent a year at the U.S. Olympic Training Center before turning his attention back to dogs.
Mitch Seavey is the 2004 Iditarod champion.
Two of 1978 winner Dick Mackey's sons have also won: Rick Mackey in 1983, and Lance Mackey from 2007 to 2010.
For being first to Nome, Dallas Seavey wins $50,400 and a new truck.
Sixty-six teams began the race on March 4. Twelve mushers have scratched.
Defending champion John Baker finished ninth this year.