Mast Still Cherishes Magical Qualifying Run At Inaugural Brickyard

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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Rick Mast surprised the NASCAR world and made history by winning the pole for the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994.

For the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, Rick Mast’s car number of “1” equaled his starting position in a qualifying effort that made history that has survived and thrived for 17 years.

Seventeen years later, Mast is still autographing inaugural Brickyard memorabilia.

“Believe it or not, I still do,” Mast said. “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. I suppose it averages about two a month. I was fortunate that I came through the sport the way I did. I’ve been out of the sport eight years. You can ask anybody who won the pole at a race, and it’s like asking who finished second. But not that race.”

On Pole Day, Dale Earnhardt went out 12th and reeled off a lap of 171.726 mph to bump Brett Bodine off the pole in the early going. Mast was next to go.

“We had a number we were shooting for,” Mast said. “We knew how the track changed with sun covers and cloud covers. We had a rain delay, and I went to A.J. (Foyt) and he said the track would be faster, so we didn’t adjust anything.

“Earnhardt put his number up. Then when I ran, it was as good a lap as I had run, but I figured somebody might knock it off.”

Mast’s run was 172.414 mph. And nobody “knocked it off.”

Mast led the first two laps of the inaugural Brickyard 400 before finishing 22nd. The qualifying performance made him an important part of Brickyard lore, history that started even before the inaugural race Aug. 6, 1994.

“My first Cup race was in ’88, and I didn’t run fulltime until ‘91,” Mast said. “When I came in full time, people were starting to talk about Indianapolis. For two years, it was set. Indy was a big deal.

“I think we left Michigan and went down for a tire test. There were so many people at that test, talking to us, getting autographs. We weren’t even in the market, and people knew who we were.

“When we got there for the race, everybody wanted to be first on everything at Indy -- first on the track, first to do this or that. Guys like Earnhardt and (Rusty) Wallace understood the ramifications of the history at the time. I was still relatively new as a full-time driver, and I don’t think I understood it as well as those guys did.

“I totally get it now.”

Mast said drivers have “favorite” tracks.

“Every driver -- there’s some little place at certain tracks that they’re fastest through the turns, or the pressure on the right-side tires is different or they hit the apex a little better,” Mast said. “Certain drivers at certain tracks run fast. Dover was a track like that for me, and so was Rockingham. Indianapolis was like that for me.”

He talked about the new experience at Indy.

“All the guys in the yellow shirts had worked there for years,” he said. “Those guys were nice. NASCAR did a lot of schooling with us on how they did things up there. Bill (France Jr.) told us in the drivers’ meeting not to do anything to embarrass us. He didn’t want everybody to crash in the first turn. We stayed in the Speedway Motel. That’s not there now. We had police escorts everywhere. We went across the street to the Steak ‘n Shake for lunch.”

Since he retired, he hasn’t returned to Indy.

“I have not,” he said. “I go to about four or five races a year and just go on qualifying days when I can talk to people. But I was just thinking last night, ‘Dang, I need to go back up there to Indy.’
“I’ll try to get up there next year. That’d be cool.”

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2011 Brickyard 400 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 2011 Brickyard 400 on Sunday, July 31 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Race Day ticket prices start at just $30. Fans can buy tickets online at www.imstix.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or by visiting the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

Children 12 and under will receive free general admission to any IMS event in 2011 when accompanied by an adult general admission ticket holder.

Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.