NIKOLAI, Alaska – Lance Mackey snatched back the lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, speeding through Ophir on Wednesday as other teams rested. Four-time champions Martin Buser and Jeff King had breezed through the Nikolai checkpoint and cruised to the front while Mackey slept. The two were resting their teams Wednesday in Ophir, near the halfway point of the 1,100-mile race, along with Zack Steer, 33, of Sheep Mountain. Steer has run the race twice with a best finish of 14th place. King, the 2006 champion, took a 41/2-hour rest in Nikolai before making a nearly 100-mile push to Ophir through the checkpoints of McGrath and Takotna. Buser, 48, running in his 24th Iditarod, spent just three minutes in Nikolai on the Kuskokwim River, about 770 miles from the finish line at Nome. He took a 51/2-hour rest in McGrath. Mackey, 36, chased the three other leaders out of Takotna on Wednesday, setting out before dawn for the cabin at Ophir. Mackey is trying to win the 1,100-mile race and follow in the footsteps of his father, Dick, and brother, Rick, who won the race in 1978 and 1983, respectively. “Things are looking good,” Mackey said when he arrived at Nikolai. Mackey, who had not slept since the start of the race in Willow on Sunday, took about seven hours in Nikolai to rest himself and his team. Mackey said his chances of winning had just improved with two top mushers out of the race after getting injured in what is proving to be one of the roughest Iditarods in years. Eleven mushers had dropped out of the race by Wednesday morning, including two top veterans. Four-time champion Doug Swingley, 53, of Lincoln, Mont., was scratched on Monday after taking a spill and getting injured in a stretch of icy trail a few miles before Rainy Pass. Aliy Zirkle, 37, of Two Rivers, who pulled into Nikolai at about the same time as Steer, 33, of Sheep Mountain, said the trail is treacherous this year. “I was lucky. That is the only thing I can say,” she said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!