INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2003 -- NASCAR Winston Cup Series veteran Rick Mast, who won the pole and led the first lap in the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, retired from racing Jan. 22 at a press conference at the Hilton Hotel in...
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2003 -- NASCAR Winston Cup Series veteran Rick Mast, who won the pole and led the first lap in the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, retired from racing Jan. 22 at a press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Charlotte, N.C.
"I have a medical condition that will not allow me to race anymore," Mast said. "While I stepped out of the car in May (2002), it was not until November that I was diagnosed with chronic and acute carbon-monoxide poisoning. I've always been exposed to this stuff, around cars since I was a little kid. What it amounts to is that I can not be around carbon monoxide or the things that cause carbon monoxide."
Mast, 45, from Rockbridge Baths, Va., made 364 Winston Cup starts between 1988 and 2002 and said his Brickyard 400 experience in 1994 was one of the highlights of his career.
"It ranks with my first Daytona (500), which we almost won," Mast said. "What's so unique about the inaugural Brickyard is that for a year and a half, there was all this hype, and we won the first competition. We'd been running through the city doing interviews all week, and the whole weekend nobody could touch my race car.
"Then in the race, on the second lap off of the fourth turn, I lost a cylinder and ran the rest of the day on seven cylinders. Up to that point, nobody could touch us."
Mast said even in 2003, as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gears up for the 10th Brickyard 400 on Aug. 3, people still remind him about his pole in 1994.
"It still goes on, even today," Mast said. "I was up in Harrisonburg, Va., in a mall the other day, and someone gave me something to sign, and it was from the inaugural Brickyard."
Since Mast won the pole and led the first lap of the first Brickyard 400, he will go down in history as the only driver to accomplish both feats out of the three inaugural races the Speedway has conducted. Lewis Strang drove the first car entered in the 1911 Indianapolis 500 and was awarded the pole, but Johnny Aitken led the first lap of the race. In 2000, Michael Schumacher started on the pole for the first United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, but David Coulthard led the opening lap.
"It definitely ranks in the top two or three (moments)," Mast said. "There was more put into that qualifying by everybody than any qualifying to that point, because it was Indy."
While Mast has retired from active driving, he plans to stay involved in the sport to ensure that other drivers can avoid his medical condition.
"From my first conversation with Mike Helton with NASCAR, and honestly I didn't talk to those guys until I finally had the final diagnosis in, from the very first conversation to right now where we're standing, NASCAR has taken the thing and pretty much run with it," Mast said.
"They've started the program looking into this, trying to figure out what's going on, trying to get some data established and figure out why this happened to me, what the numbers are, what we can do to prevent it, what we can do in the future. All I can say about it is I've been over-pleasantly pleased with those guys' response to my condition; what caused it, why are you like that and what can we do to prevent anybody else from having that in the future.
"That's the positive that we are taking from this whole thing."