57-year-old becomes oldest winner of Iditarod

Iditarod veteran Mitch Seavey, of Seward, mushes through downtown during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, March 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)

 ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Mitch Seavey won his third Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, becoming the fastest and oldest champion at age 57 and helping cement his family's position as mushing royalty.

The Seward, Alaska, musher brought his dogs off the frozen Bering Sea and onto Front Street in the Gold Rush town of Nome after crossing nearly 1,000 miles of Alaska wilderness.

He outran his son, defending champion Dallas Seavey, and lapped the oldest musher record that he set at age 53 in 2013. He previously won the race in 2013 and 2004.

Seavey set a new time record for the race, which the Iditarod said was 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds. That shaved hours off the previous record set by Dallas Seavey last year at 8 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes and 16 seconds.

"Sweet" was the first words Mitch Seavey said after getting off the sled after the dogs pulled through the finish line under the famed burled arch.

His wife, Janine, greeted him with a hug. "Oh my gosh, look at what you've just done," she told him. "You've changed the sport."

After talking to his wife, Mitch Seavey then greeted each of the dogs on his team, and thanked them with a frozen snack. "Good dogs! Good dogs!" he said to the team.

Later he posed with his two lead dogs, Pilot and Crisp.

"They get frustrated when they go too slow, so I just let them roll, which was scary because I've never gone that fast, that far ever, but that's what they wanted to do," he said.

Seavey said the dogs know only one thing -- 9 1/2 to 10 mph.

"They hit their peak, they hit their speed, and that's what they do," Seavey said at the finish line. "They trusted me to stop them when they needed to stop and feed them and I did that, and they gave me all they could."

Seavey picked up $75,000 and the keys to a new pickup for winning the world's most famous sled dog race.

The Seaveys have now won the last six races. Dallas Seavey won four of those races, and his father finished second the last two years. The two are close but competitive.

"He and I have such a great relationship," Mitch Seavey said. "There's no malice, we just love running sled dogs. No question."

The family's ties to the race go back to the first Iditarod, held in 1973, when Mitch Seavey's dad, Dan, mushed in the event.

The younger Seavey, who is 30, had wins in 2012 and from 2014 to 2016.

The race started March 6 in Fairbanks, with 71 teams trying to navigate nearly a thousand miles of grueling Alaska wilderness to the finish line in Nome. Five mushers have scratched.

As his team came off the frozen Bering Sea and onto Front Street for the last few blocks of the race, Seavey yelled, "Good boys! Hep!" to his team.

Fans lined the finish, clapping and cheering him on. The dogs at time veered a bit toward fans on one side of the street, and Seavey yelled, "Straight ahead!"

Just before reaching the chute, he got off his sled and ran with the dogs a bit.

Four dogs associated with the race have died this year, including a 4-year-old male named Flash who collapsed on the trail early Tuesday when his musher, Katherine Keith, was about 10 miles outside the checkpoint in Koyuk.