- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SAFETY, ALASKA (AP) - Defending champion Lance Mackey has left the final checkpoint of the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Mackey, who maintains a huge lead, left Safety at 8:40 a.m. Wednesday. The checkpoint is 22 miles from the finish line in Nome on Alaska’s western coast.

The 38-year-old Fairbanks musher is expected to reach Nome at about 4 p.m. EDT.

Sebastian Schnuelle (SHNOO’-lee) was in second place and John Baker was running third.

Schnuelle left White Mountain _ 77 miles from Nome _ at 8:56 a.m. after a mandatory eight-hour break. Baker was finishing his break there as well.

They are both hours behind Mackey, but ahead of a storm that trapped other mushers farther back on the trail.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

WHITE MOUNTAIN, Alaska (AP) _ Defending champion Lance Mackey has left White Mountain for the home stretch of the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Mackey has a huge lead. He left the checkpoint at 2:11 a.m. Wednesday after a mandatory eight-hour break. White Mountain is 77 miles from the finish line in Nome on Alaska’s western coast.

The 38-year-old Fairbanks musher is expected to reach Nome at about 4 p.m. EDT.

Two front-runners, Sebastian Schnuelle (SHNOO’-lee) and John Baker, are the only others to reach White Mountain.

Schnuelle arrived at 12:52 a.m. Wednesday, followed 26 minutes later by Baker.

They are still hours behind Mackey, but ahead of a storm that trapped other mushers farther back on the trail.

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