Iditarod History: A look back at the closest finishes in The Last Great Race

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - There's one word that may come to mind when you think of the Iditarod: Mayhem. The race, and the brutal Alaska wilderness, are always surprising and never something you can wrap up neatly with a bow.

So with that in mind, we decided to take a look back at the closest finishes in the race's history.

You can't talk about close finishes and not mention the 1978 race between Dick Mackey and Rick Swenson. Mackey and Swenson ran down Front Street neck-and-neck, and when it was all over, no one knew who had won at first. But in the end, Mackey's lead dog crossed the finish line first, beating Swenson by one second, and going down in history as one of the most legendary finishes.

And speaking of the Mackeys, you can't forget Dick's son, Lance. In 2008, Lance was coming off his 2007 victory and spent the entire race just ahead of Jeff King, who was going for his fifth Iditarod championship.

At the Elim checkpoint, Lance pulled some good old-fashioned trickery, sneaking out once King had fallen asleep and turning a 3-minute lead into a 57-minute lead, which he rode to his second consecutive victory.

Jeff King has been in a lot of close finishes, including 2014. With a 57-minute lead, he left White Mountain, thinking he would be able to maintain it and get to Nome. But a bad storm blew him off the trail and caused him to scratch. That same storm had Aliy Zirkle get to Safety and stop to wait it out. She couldn't see her lead dogs from her sled and decided not to go forward.

In comes Dallas Seavey. Seavey, thinking he was gunning for third, got to Safety and decided to push on.

He pushed on to Nome, where he won the 2014 race a mere 2 minutes and 22 seconds ahead of Zirkle. When he arrived in Nome, he still thought he was in third and was surprised to realize he had in fact, won the race.

So what will happen this year? If history has taught us anything, the race for first isn't over until someone crosses the finish line in Nome. We'll have to wait and see how 2019 shapes up in the record books.

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