Brickyard Notes: Mast Still Remembered For Inaugural Pole INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 19, 2001 - Rick Mast will be forever remembered as the first pole winner for the Brickyard 400, and that tag still remains with him on the autograph...
Brickyard Notes: Mast Still Remembered For Inaugural Pole
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 19, 2001 - Rick Mast will be forever remembered as the first pole winner for the Brickyard 400, and that tag still remains with him on the autograph trail.
"Here it is 1994, and here it is 2001," Mast said. "I still, today, this is no joke, I don't go more than three autograph sessions now that somebody doesn't throw an inaugural Brickyard something at me to autograph. For years and years and years, it went every single autograph session, and there'd be all kinds of inaugural stuff to sign.
"Then it finally got to where you might get two or three per session. Then it got to where it was every other session. But now, even seven years later, about every third session somebody will have an inaugural Brickyard thing. I definitely don't want this to be a footnote in my career. That's not a footnote. That particular week was about the most special period in my racing career."
Many of Mast's fond memories of the inaugural Brickyard 400 center around late seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.
"When we came to Indy for the first time, it was a big, big deal for NASCAR," Mast said. "It was a big deal for all of us. It was a big deal for Dale Earnhardt. We all kind of judged what we did off Dale Earnhardt for years. Indy was a great big deal for Earnhardt, so all the rest of us thought, 'OK, it must be a big deal. If he thinks it's a big deal, it's a big deal for us, right?'
"He went out before I did, and he sat on the pole. I think maybe he thought he was going to get the pole, then I knocked him off, and it was me and him for the rest of the day because both of us went out early.
"Then when the race started, Dale was going to lead that first lap, no matter what. We hit down in Turn 1, and then it was over, and I got to lead the first lap. Then the second lap, coming off Turn 4, I dropped a cylinder. Even today, that's been the most devastating thing in my career. Probably the highest of highs right here at this racetrack and lowest of lows, just because Happy Hour and the practice sessions and everything leading up to the race, nobody could run with my race car.
"My car was just as perfect a race car as I've ever had anywhere. It was just a matter of getting to the end of the race. I ran on seven cylinders all day, still ended up seventh. But to be able to win the first competition on the racetrack was a very, very big deal."
Penske power: Rusty Wallace, driving for the Penske Racing team, has a tough act to follow after Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran finished first and second, respectively, in this year's Indianapolis 500 in May.
"I think there's a big emphasis with Roger finishing 1-2 here in the '500,' and us having a great run last year and almost winning and finishing second," Wallace said July 17. "We feel like we can come back and do good. We've been working very hard for the last day-and-a-half on nothing but race setup."
Staying power: Brett Bodine, who set the NASCAR Winston Cup track record as a second-day Brickyard 400 qualifier last year at 181.072 mph, thinks it will hold up.
"It's really hard to tell," Bodine said July 17. "As we know, the history here at the Speedway is about weather, about conditions. If the conditions are right, maybe people can get down to that record again.
"Goodyear's got us on a different tire, a different type tire. It's much taller, and it doesn't seem to be generating the grip that we had in the past. So I question if anybody can go that fast."
Hornaday happy to return: Ron Hornaday, driving for four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, has seen things come full circle since his ride for the inaugural Brickyard 400 was the first car pushed into the garage in 1994.
"It was exciting," Hornaday said. "Everybody else was unloading their tool box, and we wanted to be the first car to push through for the first Brickyard. It was pretty cool. We had the opportunity to bring Wayne Spears' car out here, a Winston West car.
"I remember it was a lot of fun, but it came down to the last day of qualifying, and Mr. A.J. Foyt bumped me out, and we went home. It was an exciting four days we were here. It's amazing how these fans just love these automobiles. It's the coolest part. I haven't been here in three or four years."
First impressions: For Kurt Busch, Mark Green and Hermie Sadler, the testing July 16-17 provided their first laps at the Speedway.
KURT BUSCH: "It's actually my second time (here). I snuck into the grandstands here last year as a spectator and sat in Turn 1 to watch a little bit of practice. But this is my first time on the racetrack. It's not your conventional oval. It's very unique, and it's very nostalgic and historic, and it's just a wonderful treat to drive on it. It's a bit more of a professional-type atmosphere. It's almost like an amusement park inside with the garage area, the golf course and the road course. It's just the whole feel that it has on the racetrack. It's completely different. It's smooth; it's got different aprons on each of the four corners. It's just a very well thought-out racetrack. I think every driver in his own mind wants to run at Indy eventually once or twice. Whether you're a stock-car or open-wheel fan, it's just a dream come true, so to speak, to hit Daytona for the first time in a Winston Cup car and come to Indy for the first time. It's really neat to experience all these different racetracks, and this place puts an exclamation point on all of them."
MARK GREEN: "Fast. I came here when the Indy cars were testing. The biggest thing I saw was, a car would go by, and you couldn't hear it and a second later, you hear it and I said, 'Where's that car?' The speed is so fast, they go by, then you hear them, so it's an awesome place to be. It's fast, and it takes some getting used to."
HERMIE SADLER: "It's an awesome facility, for sure, unlike anything I've ever been on. I enjoy the racetrack. It has some speedway and short-track characteristics altogether. We've been making some progress since we've been here, and hopefully we'll come back with a legitimate chance to make the race."
Double duty: Jeff Green will do double duty on Brickyard 400 weekend, running his Busch Series car at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Saturday, Aug. 4, the same day as qualifying takes place at the Speedway.
"The schedules are working out for us," he said July 17 at the Speedway test. "We're going to have to miss a little bit of practice on each side of the fence. But hopefully what we do today will help that. We'll be able to come in here, make a few laps and qualify the thing and have it ready for Happy Hour.
"(For the Busch race), we'll have to helicopter back. It's a pretty easy deal. You get out and practice, qualify and race the same setup."