From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --
The top 30 mushers in this year’s Iditarod will split a combined purse of roughly $550,000, the race director said today.
That’s a more than $20,000 boost compared to 2011, said executive director Stan Hooley. For cash-strapped mushers who spend tens of thousands of dollars to compete in the sport’s premiere event, however, it still falls far short of the record $875,000 shared among the top 30 spots in 2008.
In Iditarod, a faster finish can mean thousands of dollars in extra winnings -- cash mushers use to pay for dog food, airfare and other expenses.
Little, if any, of this year’s slight increase will be added to the champion's check, Hooley said. Race officials consider the free Dodge truck that goes to the Iditarod winner to be part of the purse, he said, so the added winnings are being spread among other finishers.
The first-place finisher will get roughly the same as the previous two winners, John Baker and Lance Mackey, who each took home $50,400.
"The board's philosophy is that payout won't grow until much of the rest of the 'money positions' catch up with that," Hooley said.
Racers who finished in 31 place or later receive $1,049, based on the Iditarod’s old “official” distance of 1,049 miles. (Race organizers now label the northern route as 975 miles, based on GPS data and other research.)
A related note: Hooley says this year’s detour around the infamous Happy River Steps will add just more than a mile to the distance of the race.
Expect drug testing for mushers along the trail once again this year, he said.
I've asked Iditarod for a copy of the official money list -- exactly how much each finisher will win -- and will post it here when available.