Brent Sass is poised to win this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Alaska Public Media’s Lex Treinen reports:
It’s something he’s wanted for years.
“Well,” he said, smiling and laughing after pulling into the checkpoint here Monday in first place. “Oh boy! Well, we made it.”
Sass and his 12 dogs raced into White Mountain at 11:05 a.m. They have just 77 miles to the finish line in Nome. And Sass’s closest competition is more than two hours behind: five-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey.
All teams must stop in White Mountain for eight hours before the final push to the finish.
A cheerful and tired Sass fed his dogs on the frozen Fish River, preparing to rest under clear and sunny skies.
He said he still felt a little shocked to be in the lead.
“That I’m here in White Mountain, as the number one musher at this point, with one more run left to go in the Iditarod,” he said. “It’s, yeah, it’s kind of a dream.”
Sass trains out of a remote homestead in Eureka, outside of Fairbanks. While he’s won the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest three times, the highest he’s placed in the Iditarod — before this year — was third in 2021.
Sass has maintained control of this year’s Iditarod since just before the halfway point. He passed Seavey on the trail from Ophir to Cripple, taking over the lead and never giving it up.
“It’s a little surreal to be honest. It’s been a hell of a race for these guys and I’m super proud of them. And I’m tired — for the record,” he said with a big laugh.
He said he planned to get some sleep in White Mountain. He was still processing it all.
“Eight hours is plenty of time to lay down,” he said. “But, I don’t know, I’m kind of speechless to be honest.”
Sass gave all the credit to his dog team, led most of the time by Slater and Morello.
“It’s all about the dogs,” he said. “Super proud of the dog team. I mean, everyone says that or whatever, but I feel like I’ve put a lot of energy into this team and they’ve poured it all out in the field.”
Sass did check in with the small crowd gathered at the checkpoint to ask about Seavey, learning he was more than a dozen miles away.
“A little breathing room at least,” he said. “That’s probably a couple hours, right? That’s nice.”
Sass can leave White Mountain at 7:05 p.m. Monday.
Image at top: Brent Sass and his 12 dogs raced into White Mountain at 11:05 a.m. Monday in first place. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)