MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 30, 2001) -- It hasn't been the greatest Winston Cup season so far for Rick Mast, but he's headed to the place where he can get well in a hurry, the track he calls home: Martinsville Speedway and the Virginia 500. ...
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 30, 2001) -- It hasn't been the greatest Winston Cup season so far for Rick Mast, but he's headed to the place where he can get well in a hurry, the track he calls home: Martinsville Speedway and the Virginia 500.
"Martinsville has always been a favorite place for me to go," said Mast, a native Virginian who lives a couple of hours north of Martinsville Speedway. "It's home and I like going there because of the hot dogs, the azaleas, dogwoods and ducks.
"It's like going to Richmond or Bristol. You still see some of the old faces that you used to see all the time. A lot of stuff has happened there over the years." Mast and the Midwest Transit team have struggled this season, but had a pretty good run going last week at Bristol before crashing. A season marked by bad breaks hasn't dimmed Mast's outlook, though. "I look forward every week to going to the race track, no matter what's going on," said Mast. "I'm the ultimate optimist when it comes to that stuff. "Of course I'm a realist, too. I know where we're at with this deal. We've just got to get better. Hal Hicks, who owns this team, has a concerted effort to make this a pretty decent race team. It can be, but it's going to take some time to do that. It is what it is and we're all doing the best we can do with it."
A Martinsville visit could help Mast pump up the Midwest Team. He won a Busch Grand National race here in 1987, although he doesn't have the greatest memories from that weekend.
"I remember that Jimmy Hensley ran second to me and that was pretty cool because he is so good at Martinsville," recalled Mast. "My guys were really happy after the race. They were pushing the car from victory lane to wherever we were parked. I've got to admit that we had a pretty ratty car.
"The guys were all proud of being in victory lane and when it was all over we were talking about everything and they were a little bit dejected. I said 'what's wrong guys?' They said they were pushing the car through the garage area past all the Winston Cup guys and they had to stop for the guy that owns the 15 car, Bud Moore. He peered over into the car and said 'this boy must be a hell of a driver because he aunt' got nothing to drive.' It kind of deflated my guys' ego."
But there's a moral to that story. Even in a sub-par car, Mast knows how to get around the .526-mile oval. The big deal, he says, is still brakes.
"You've got to condition yourself to stay off the brake pedal and you've got to get your car working well. If you can get the car turning good through the apex of the corner that does as much to save the brakes as anything because you don't have to slow the car down as much in the center of the turn," said Mast.
While Mast has run well, even won at Martinsville over the past couple of decades, it was his very first trip to the track, back before he was driving under the NASCAR banner, that influenced him the most.
"I forgot exactly what happened, if the race was rained out or whatever," said Mast, recalling a 1977 visit after leaving a North Carolina dirt track. "We were coming home and we stopped off at Martinsville Speedway. It was in the daytime and I remember pulling up to the fourth turn gate. I remember peering out at the racetrack and looking down the straightaway.
"I told my guys that if I could ever once run this racetrack, my life would be fulfilled. I've always had a lot of folks go to Martinsville that pull for me. We've always had a whole group of people cheering for us and that's pretty cool."
The Virginia 500/Advance Auto Parts 250 weekend kicks off with Bud Pole qualifying for the Craftsman Truck Series at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 6 followed by time trials for the Winston Cup Series at 3 p.m. Tickets for qualifying are $15 for adults and children under 12 get in free. Tickets for the Advance Auto Parts 250 Craftsman Truck race are $30 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. All seats are unreserved. There still are great seats available for the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race for $40-$65 each. To purchase tickets call the speedway ticket office toll free at 877-722-3849 or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.