The 58 racers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race headed out into the wilderness Sunday following the race's official start a day after the ceremonial start in Anchorage.

In this settlement, 14 miles into the race, lawn chairs and barbecue grills popped up along the mushers' path. Children pulled each other on sleds and made snow angels. Adults sipped beers and munched hamburgers.At the Knik checkpoint, the crowd was mellow and friendly. Mushers all got cheered away, and though some of the teams veered toward the interesting sounds and smells of the crowd, no serious crashes resulted.

In earlier years, racers hit Knik toward dusk. But with the new restart in Wasilla on Sunday morning, a bright after-church or skipping-church crowd was out watching.

As the sun rose over the mountains, defending Iditarod champion Martin Buser was lying full-length on his sled, gathering a final moment of rest as the temperature climbed above zero. Other mushers were still pulling into the staging area in Wasilla.

For the first time this year, mushers are being timed from the Sunday restart instead of Saturday's departure from Anchorage. With that change, Buser said, the winner likely will arrive in less than 10 days, easily breaking his 1994 record of 10 days, 13 hours, and 3 minutes.

Five-time Iditarod winner Rick Swenson isn't predicting his time of arrival at the finish.

"Some of these guys know to the minute when they'll get to Nome," Swenson said as he waited for the start. "I just know I'll be ahead of everybody else."

Swenson hedged on earlier reports that he planned to take a hiatus from the Iditarod after this race, his 20th in a row.

"I've made no official announcement," he said. "I have been talking about taking a break and spending more time on the Alpirod and with my family ... I had kind of made my mind up (to take a break), but last night I went out to dinner and saw how all these people are enjoying the race. It kind of got my Iditarod spirit pumped up again."

If Iditarod spirit was fueling the teams, there was plenty of it. Nineteen handlers kept initial starter Bill Cotter's 16 dogs in check while they were escorted to the starting line.

By the time the mushers reached Knik, Cotter was still in the lead and a few of the mushers behind him had rearranged themselves a bit.

Mushers were more concerned about getting things right with their teams than with getting out of the Knik checkpoint quickly. Often there were a half-dozen teams waiting for their mushers to get on the trail.

About half of the 900 or so dogs in the race were weighed before the start. Lisa Shaw of Raleigh, N.C., a senior vet student who was helping with the chore, said the dogs mostly weighed between 45 and 65 pounds, with one hitting 72 pounds.