From Beth Bragg in Anchorage --
You may have noticed that the official standings list six mushers as "scratched" and one as "withdrawn."
Yes, there's a difference.
The short version: A scratch is voluntary. Being withdrawn is involuntary.
Mitch Seavey, the champion in 2004 and a top-10 finisher every year since, was withdrawn by race officials early this morning after he cut some of his fingers while slicing open a bale of straw.
"I wouldn't say that he was resisting dropping out, but you know Mitch. He did not want to give up this race," said race spokesman Chas St. George.
Race marshal Mark Nordman made the call. St. George said such decisions are made on a case-by-case decision. No rule addresses what kind of injuries are acceptable to keep racing with and which are not.
Mushers can be withdrawn for reasons other than injuries. There's a competitiveness rule that permits officials to withdraw a musher if he or she "is out of the competition and is not in a position to make a valid effort to compete."
If a musher doesn't reach McGrath within 72 hours of the race leader, "it may be presumed that a team is not competitive," the rule said. For Grayling, it's 96 hours; for Unalakleet, it's 120 hours.
Note that the rule says "may be presumed," not "must be presumed." That leaves wiggle room.
The current Red Lantern musher is James Bardoner, who reached Nikolai this morning at 10:46. McGrath is 54 miles away. Martin Buser was the first to reach McGrath, arriving at 5:55 p.m. Tuesday, putting the 72-hours-later mark at 5:55 p.m. Friday.