Mast: Future With Foyt Bright

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Rick Mast is optimistic, and a lot of the reason for that optimism is the fact that he is driving for straight-shooter A.J. Foyt.

"There is no favoritism or politics with A.J.," Mast said. "If you don't know where you stand with A.J., you just weren't listening."

Foyt, an all-around racing star in his driving days, has become a successful team owner in the Indy Racing League, winning a share of one championship and another one outright. The first man to win the Indianapolis 500 four times also won the race as an owner -- with Kenny Brack -- in 1999.

Still, when Foyt decided last winter to start a Winston Cup team, the hurdles were huge. In such a competitive atmosphere, it is considered virtually impossible to find the right combination of people and equipment in the first year or two in NASCAR's top stock car series.

The naysayers appeared to be right when Foyt's team, then with rookie Mike Bliss, failed to qualify for three of the first four races.

Things improved a bit when veteran Dick Trickle temporarily took over the driving chores in the No. 14 Pontiac in the fifth race and qualified for three straight events.

But Foyt was looking for a driver to help his team grow and improve over the next few years, and he chose the 43-year-old Mast.

Again things looked bleak for a while as Mast failed to make three of the first four races in Foyt's car. But things are beginning to look up for Foyt's team, which now has qualified for four straight races.

"Basically, we had three problems," Mast said. "We had some geometry problems with our chassis; we had aerodynamic problems and we had horsepower problems."

In an effort to solve those problems, Foyt reorganized his team shortly after Mast arrived. He brought Tommy Lamance, his nephew, over from the Indy-car team to run the stock car operation, as well as hiring Philippe Lopez as crew chief and David Evans to build his engines.

Already Lopez had produced one car that Mast says is better than anything the team had before.

"Now we've got a long ways to go with our aerodynamic program, and the motor program is going to be an ongoing process," Mast said. "But the team has a lot of plans. They have a lot of things they are going to do. It's just going to take time to get there."

Mast is hopeful about that future.

"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."

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