Pocono: Next chance for Rick Mast to continue slow climb

POCONO IS NEXT CHANCE FOR MAST TO CONTINUE SLOW CLIMB TO COMPETITIVENESS DETROIT (June 13, 2000) - When Rick Mast arrived at A.J. Foyt Racing back in March, he knew the road to becoming competitive was going to be a long one. The team had ...

POCONO IS NEXT CHANCE FOR MAST TO CONTINUE SLOW CLIMB TO COMPETITIVENESS

DETROIT (June 13, 2000) - When Rick Mast arrived at A.J. Foyt Racing back in March, he knew the road to becoming competitive was going to be a long one. The team had identified a number of reasons for their early season struggles and the time had arrived to fix them. During this tough rebuilding process, Mast has remained confident that he will enjoy some good days in the Conseco Pontiac, and he believes those days are drawing closer.

THOUGHTS FROM RICK MAST, NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX

...does he see his team starting to make progress after a slow start in 2000?: "Yeah, I saw it at The Winston in Charlotte with the changes we had made to the car. Basically we had three problems. We had some geometry problems with our chassis, number one. Number two, we had aerodynamic problems, and number three, we had horsepower problems. That pretty much covers the gamut. "With the geometry problems, Philippe and the guys went in there, and in the matter of a couple of weeks pretty much fixed all the cars, as far as that goes. With the motor problems, A.J. (Foyt) just decided to bite the bullet and shut the engine room down for the time being. David Evans was hired to head the engine room up. But they are just now starting, as we speak, to work on some engines. "The last thing to fix, of course, is aerodynamics. The Charlotte-Dover car was the first shot out of the box for us since Philippe and his guys tried to make the car better, and they helped it a lot. So all those things put together added up to make things go pretty good for us at Charlotte and Dover, as far as our performance. "Now, we've got a long ways to go with our aerodynamic program, and the motor program is going to be an on-going process to try and get that thing going and get it right. But the team has a lot of plans. They have a lot of things they are going to do. But it's going to take time to get there."

...on the straightforward approach used by A.J. Foyt: "That's what's so good about A.J. There is no favoritism with A.J. There are no politics with A.J. It's very straightforward. If you don't know where you stand with A.J. you just weren't listening; I can tell you that. "His number one thing is to run good and his team will be successful - believe me. As long as A.J. Foyt owns it, at the end of the day, no matter how long it takes, it will be a successful race team."

...on the new Pontiac rules: "I have to speak in a little different terms than what you would get from Jimmy Makar or Greg Zipadelli or Tommy Baldwin, in the sense that our team in particular was so far behind aerodynamic-wise when I got there back in March. "There's no question the Pontiac was at a deficit to the other two all by itself, but then we are at our own deficit within that. So I'm not going to sit here and gripe about Pontiacs being at a deficit when I know good and well we don't have our best stuff put together, yet. It just doesn't make sense to do that. By them (NASCAR) helping Pontiac, it helps us immediately, too. But it only gets us closer to the Fords and Chevrolets. It doesn't get us any closer to the good Pontiacs. "Since Philippe (Lopez) got there and got some of his people in there, they have worked hard on a couple of cars to get our aero program at least headed in the right direction. The car we had at Charlotte and that we wrecked at Dover was by far the best one we've had when we've blown one in the wind tunnel. Our team had only been to the wind tunnel once before I got there and that was back in February. Then Philippe took some cars to the wind tunnel two or three weeks ago right before Charlotte. I actually saw where we were (downforce) number-wise and what we've been running, which was way, way down from where we should have been with the other Pontiacs to begin with. The car that we ran at Charlotte and Dover was headed in the right direction. It had better numbers. But once we got to talking to some of the other folks, we found out what the good Pontiac numbers are, and when I found that out I was a little bit disappointed."

...why has Bobby Labonte been leading the points most of the season if the Pontiac Grand Prix was at a deficit?: "First of all, Bobby Labonte could fall out of a race early and he'd go back to fifth place that quick. The points are just that close right now. The second reason, and I've said this before and I'll say it for a long time, Jimmy Makar is the most underrated crew chief there is out there. He's just got his act together, they've got a very good race team and Bobby is doing a very good job. They don't have the downforce that Ford and Chevrolet have, but they do have good balance with the car, and they are making the most of it. They are also kind of lucky right now along with being good. Everything is just working in their favor. But the fact remains, you take these cars to the wind tunnel and blow them, numbers don't lie. You see what the deal is."

...what makes Jimmy Makar so good: "Jimmy just pays close attention. Jimmy is very basic with what he does. He pays close attention to everything. And really, that may not sound like a big deal, but it is a big deal in Winston Cup. If you're crew chief, it's just being able to pay close attention to everything that is going on with the race car and being able to structure and organize that, either in your mind, or your note-taking system, or your computer system. Jimmy is very good at taking a bunch of information from different directions and formulating it into a cohesive plan. That's the big thing in Winston Cup racing. It really is. A lot of people try to make it out to be rocket-science - and there is some science that goes into it - but they make things a lot harder than what they should. If you just take your basic principles with these stock cars and pay close attention to detail, you'll be successful. I think that is Jimmy's big deal."

...how good are Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.?: "From what I can tell, very good. Darn right they're good. "But you need to qualify this a little bit. It's somebody with the right talent at the right time that gets in the right situation. And right now when you come in as a rookie, you come in in awfully good stuff. When I came in, I jumped in every piece of junk car I could get in just to get seat-time because that's the only kind of seat-time you got in Winston Cup. If you came out of Busch or whatever as a rookie, you weren't going to get in a top ride. "But nowadays it seems like guys are coming into very good situations and they have talent to go along with it. It's pretty cool for them. "The other thing, in both Dale and Matt's cases, they are both good boys. They're not buttheads, or egotistical, or arrogant or anything. They're both very respectful people. They just walk the walk properly, and it just makes it much easier. If they were buttheads and arrogant and all that, then it would make it tough. But they wouldn't last very long as rookies, if they acted like that. But both of them, with their demeanor and the talent they've got, they'll both do very well for years to come."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Rick Mast , A.J. Foyt , Tommy Baldwin