For four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey, his 27th place finish at the burled arch Friday is a sweet victory. 

"I won," he yelled, as fans cheered. 

The veteran dog musher has had his share of physical challenges, including throat cancer and losing a finger. Issues with his hands have prevented him from running the Iditarod since his last race in 2016.  

After reaching Nome in 11 days, 22 hours, 42 minutes and 40 seconds, Mackey — the only musher to ever win four-straight Iditarod titles — said this year, he had nothing to prove.  

"My race wasn’t about a position, or beating a person or being here in a certain time frame," Mackey said. "[...] I said before I even started the race, 'Make it to the finish line, I won.'"

The warm weather that created tough trail conditions for everyone else seems to have worked in Mackey's favor.  

"Oh undoubtedly," he said. "It was hard on the dogs a little bit during the day so we just rested longer and ran mostly at night, with the exception of a couple short heat runs that put us where we need to be in order to take a break. I think we had a great race." 

After hugging his family, Mackey focused on his team. 

"Told you we would be here sooner or later," he said to his dogs in lead. "Later, than sooner, but we made it." 

He said his hands, protected in polar bear fur mittens, felt great at the finish line. 

"You know, I made it to the finish line without being completely beat to crap and with a beautiful dog team," said Mackey. 

His team is made up of some veteran racers and six dogs that had never run the Iditarod.  

Lance Mackey's dog team rests after reaching Nome. (Daniella Rivera / KTVA)

"There’s nothing that these dogs wouldn’t do for me and vice versa," he said. "And without me, they’re kinda useless, and I’m nobody without them, so I owe it all to them. They do all the work, I get all the credit." 

Mackey said he spent time in almost every checkpoint, eating pie in Takotna and prime rib in Ophir. 

"This one's gonna go down as the snooze and booze cruise," he joked.

Lance Mackey and his family ride away from the burled arch in Nome together. (Daniella Rivera / KTVA)

Whether Mackey ever tries to run the Iditarod again, he believes his dogs have more racing to do. 

"Potentially this team's gonna be here again next year," he said. "We'll have to pick a different driver, but they'll have a foundation."  

For the musher who's overcome more challenges than most to run the Last Great Race, his 15th Iditarod was unforgettable, and everything he had hoped it would be. 

"I had a blast," said Mackey. 

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