"What I had mimicked a lot of bad diseases, and I was frightened at one time, but now I realize every day is a blessing. That's after going to seven different clinics.

"I spent six or eight months at home. I didn't have a choice in the matter. I was in the bed most of the time, lying there ready to die.

"During that time, I started seeing a different lifestyle, a life that I had never had. I started getting acclimated to that, and as time went on, I wanted less and less to travel."

Mast was 45 when he quit driving. He says there are drivers now 15 years his junior who he thinks are experiencing some of the same symptoms he'd exhibited while battling the poisoning.

Mast called NASCAR president Mike Helton and told him what he had gone through and what doctors discovered.

As a result of Mast's problems, systems have been developed to get fresher air into driver cockpits. According to a NASCAR spokesman, things are much better now.

Mast now owns and operates RKM Enviro-Clean, a company that does site work for underground utilities as well as responds to situations involving hazardous materials.

Mast also has a farm with about 50 cows and five horses. "And," he says, "a thousand cats and dogs."

Ricky, 24, Mast's son, recently graduated from college and works with his father. "I have twin daughters, Kaitie and Sarah, age 11, and they are into everything-horses, soccer, everything," says Mast. "I missed my son growing up, and I'm not going to miss these twins growing up. And I like spending more time with my wife Sharon.

"We also have a half dozen or so ATVs, which we enjoy riding. Ricky and I do some deer hunting around here. We just do a whole lot of whatever we want to do."

Mast won some poles, but never a Cup race. He looks back to the 1989 Daytona 500 and remembers how close he came to winning.

"I was running in the top six all afternoon. Cars began stopping for fuel near the end of the race. Travis Carter, my crew chief, was worried about getting a sponsor for the following year and called me to the pits. We took on gas and finished Sixth in the race. I think we could have won the 500 had we not stopped. After the race, we checked the car, and we could have finished without stopping."Mast says Richard Petty carried the sport during the early part of Mast's career, and Dale Earnhardt carried it the second half of his career.

Mast has a hundred stories to tell his grandchildren. One story he tells shuts up everybody around him. It's about a lady who looked like Elvira and who changed his luck.

Hmmmmmmm!

She was vivacious and scantily dressed, and sat on the fender of his racecar with her slender legs crossed. And she blew bubbles all over the racecar.

Now if you're not interested in the rest of the story I will just quit. But I sort of figure a little more of the story might interest you.

Finally, she put the lid on the bottle, slipped the ring for making bubbles into her cleavage, uncrossed her slender legs, and said in a very soft, seductive voice, "Your luck will change."

Rick said she frightened him.

I said to Rick, "Why yeaaaah, I'll bet she would frighten me, too."

"She looked just like Elvira," Rick says.

"Yeah, well, go ahead, my man. Don't stop now."

"I don't know who she was or where she came from, and I never want to see her again. It was too scary. If she has the power to turn your luck from bad to good, I don't want to see what else she can do."

Mast was racing NASCAR's Busch Series in 1990, the night the cryptic lady in red showed up at Indianapolis Raceway Park. "I had wrecked, and torn up my car," he says. "I was there with my crew looking at the damage when she walked up and sat on the fender. We just stood there with our tongues hanging out, looking stupid. We could not comprehend what was happening."

The next week he raced at Bristol, and had $52 in his pocket.