Boris Said - team pre-season interview

Q&A With Boris Said DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2005) -- The following is a question and answer with the colorful Boris Said, who talks about entering his first DAYTONA 500, his new team and general observations about life and racing. The Q &...

Q&A With Boris Said

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2005) -- The following is a question and answer with the colorful Boris Said, who talks about entering his first DAYTONA 500, his new team and general observations about life and racing.

The Q & A includes his own definition of drafting, his kindred spirit Dale Earnhardt Jr. and how he finds different ways to relax before a big race such as visiting San Quentin.

Said, known for his road-racing exploits, will drive in a minimum of 10 NASCAR Nextel Cup races for MB/Sutton Motorsports in 2005. He will pilot the No. 36 CENTRIX Financial Chevrolet.

Q: How excited are you about entering your first DAYTONA 500?

BORIS: I never thought in a million years that I would be here attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500. For me it will be the biggest racing accomplishment if I can qualify and finish the Daytona 500.When I first started to race I competed in my personal car with duct-tape numbers. I've come a long way and it's a thrilling time for Boris Said.

Q: You competed at Daytona in the Bud Shootout last year. It was your first NASCAR Cup experience at a restrictor-plate race. What was it like?

BORIS: I didn't think I could do it at first -- the first 20 laps I was scared to death. By the end of the race, I loved it. I was very pleased and even surprised myself by finishing0th. That was a great experience and it will definitely help me this year.

Q: What are your thoughts about drafting?

BORIS: Drafting is like playing chess in the middle of a mine field with people shooting at you. There's chaos all around you. You need to stay calm and think clearly. It's exciting and awesome, but at the same time it demands a lot of concentration.

Q: By not being in the top 35 in 2004 owner points,what are your chances of qualifying for the Daytona 500?

BORIS: I think the new rules for qualifying favor us, especially for Daytona. We were competitive in preseason testing at Daytona and hopefully that will continue.Let's just say we are cautiously optimistic.

Q: How is it working out with your new team ATM/Sutton Motorsports?

BORIS: Some people say it's a new team,but I feel like we've been together for years. Having Frank Stoddard as crew chief is a huge bonus. When I was told he would be joining MB/Sutton Motorsports my first reaction was why would somebody that good want to work with me. Bob Sutton (Chairman and CEO of CENTRIX Financial) and Jay Frye (MB2 General Manager) believe in us and they have worked hard in putting this team together.

Q: What are you looking to achieve on the Nextel Cup circuit in 2005?

BORIS: My two goals are to win a road race and be competitive on the ovals by finishing in the top 20. I think those are realistic goals. Once I obtain those goals I will reset them. I want to belong here and if I can achieve these goals early then I will be on the right path.

Q: Did you ever start to wonder if this opportunity would come your way?

BORIS: I was definitely getting restless, but I never gave up hope. My whole life people were telling me it can't be done, it can't be done. But you know what I'm a firm believer if you work hard enough it can be done. I've been proving it all of my life. I never really thought negatively that it wouldn't happen. But I was anxious to have it happen sooner than later.

Q: Some say you might be a little too old at 42 to start competing with more regularity in the Nextel Cup Series and that CENTRIX Financial and MB/Sutton are taking a big chance with you?

BORIS: I don't think age is a factor. I'm racing better than I have ever raced in my life right now. I don't feel old. I feel like I have another 10 or 12 really good years of racing left in me. Age is not the reason CENTRIX Financial and MB2 are taking a chance on me. I think they're taking a chance on me because I don't have a lot of oval experience. But keep in mind the program is for 10 races and we have a realistic shot at winning 20 percent of those races. I don't think there are too many people that can say that. So, I feel I am the right guy for this program. Also, CENTRIX is very unique -- they're rewriting the rules in auto financing and give loans to people who have been turned down in the past. They see value where other people don't. And I don't plan on letting them down.

Q: Some people also say you don't fit the NASCAR mold. You're tall, colorful, personable and a free spirit?

BORIS: I don't know what the NASCAR mold is. But I can't and won't change. I am who I am. I feel I have always been honest and direct and pretty much say what's on my mind. Sometimes I slip, say the wrong thing and get into trouble. But I don't mean any harm. I like to get along with everybody. It's more fun that way.

Q: When you started to compete in Cup road races as an outsider and stole some of the flash against the best drivers in the world, how did you get them to like you and not resent you?

BORIS: I don't think I ever had the Days of Thunder issue where I was resented because I was an outsider. I never experienced that in NASCAR. I think the reason is that I came in as a teacher helping the guys with their road racing program. And by doing that I forged a lot of good friendships. So when I came in I didn't feel like an outsider even though I am one. I made a lot of friends. If anyone needs advice on road racing I will give it and be honest. And in turn the guys have been good to me with advice on the ovals.

Q: Who are some of the Cup drivers that you feel close with?

BORIS: I feel good around most of them. They're all good guys. But I guess you could say that Dale Jr., Joe Nemechek and Casey Mears I consider pretty close friends. I could go up and ask them anything.

Q: If you were a fan, who would be your favorite drivers?

BORIS: Jeff (Gordon), Tony (Stewart) and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.). I think they're three of the best drivers in the business. They're also neat people.

Q: How did you and Dale Jr. become kindred spirits?

BORIS: When he came into Cup racing DEI hired me to go up to Sears Point and teach him about road racing. Some people you meet and don't get along with and some people you meet you just hit it off. And Dale and I hit it off right away and we've been good friends ever since. I helped him out as much as I could on road racing and he has helped me on the ovals, especially at Daytona. If Dale wasn't who he was we would still be good friends. We just connected. Maybe our DNA is similar.

Q: By helping Dale Jr. you got to meet Dale Sr. What was your first get together like with the elder Earnhardt?

BORIS: A week after I helped out Junior, his dad came up to me and told me how much he appreciated the time I spent with his son and how much Junior enjoyed it. I was star struck and lost for words. I didn't know what to say. He was such a nice guy, and still to this day, I can't believe he came up and talked to me. I was blown away that the "Intimidator" was thanking me. That was very, very cool.

Q: As both a teammate and friend of Dale Jr., what was it like seeing him engulfed in flames during a sports car race in Sonoma last year?

BORIS: It's hard to explain. It's bad enough to see it on television to someone you don't know. But for somebody you know and a good friend it was horrifying. It was a feeling of utter helplessness. I wanted to run in there and grab him, but it was a physical impossibility because of the proximity of the car and where I was at. We might joke about it now, but it was scary when it was happening. We've talked about teaming up again in the future and I am sure we will -- but it won't be this year.

Q: You're also close friends with Ernie Irvan. Has he helped you with the transition from road courses to ovals?

BORIS: Ernie was the first person to say that I should try NASCAR racing. We've been good friends for a long time and I've raced for him. He's a good mentor and he's the first person I go to when I have a question. We talk every week. He's a great guy and a great race car driver. We have a lot of fun together.

Q: Do you like being referred to as the road-racing specialist at Cup events?

BORIS: I don't mind it, but I don't especially love it. At least they're saying something about me. I hope in two or three years people would see me at a road course and say that oval track driver is a really good road racer. That's what I would like. But for now I'm okay with the road-racing label. It's kept me in the seat and got me to where I'm at.

Q: How and when did you get started in racing?

BORIS: I went to my first car race in 1985 -- it was the Detroit Grand Prix. I was a Honda/Yamaha motorcycle dealer in Norwalk, Conn. and my friend's father, who helped me get the dealership, gave me a trip to the Detroit Grand Prix. I loved it. After the race I bought a race car from the newspaper and brought it to a track and started racing Showroom Stock. I started racing late -- at 25 years-old. Before my trip to Detroit, I had zero interest in racing--would never watch it on television. It didn't do much for me. But in person it was the combination of everything that got me hooked -- the noise, the power, the speed, the atmosphere -- there was a buzz and I wanted to be part of it. My dealership in Connecticut was down the street from Bob Sharp Nissan. Bob, who owned a Trans Am race team with Paul Newman as driver, came up to me at the Detroit race and asked me what I was doing there. I told him I needed to do this and asked him where I could get a Formula One car and how much are they. I didn't realize then how stupid that question was. But Bob was understanding -- he said Formula One is not the place to start. He gave me good advice and told me to go to Skip Barber Racing School at Lime Rock (Conn.) and then buy a Showroom Stock car. That's what I did and eventually I went racing full time in 1988.

Q: What have been your biggest racing accomplishments?

BORIS: There's been a lot. I guess being able to make a living from racing is a huge accomplishment. Being one of the first Americans winning modern day sports car races in Europe was pretty neat. Winning at Nurburgring (Germany) was special in my mind. Winning the Trans Am championship was big and the Cup pole at Sonoma in 2003 was as good as it gets. That was awesome -- probably the biggest accomplishment for notoriety. Other highlights were the pole at Le Mans and the win at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) in 1994. Spa is one of the most daunting tracks in Europe and that was pretty neat to win there. Hopefully the biggest accomplishment will happen soon -- and that's to win a race on the Nextel Cup circuit.

Q: Your biggest racing disappointment?

BORIS: That's easy. The 2003 Watkins Glen NASCAR race. I had the best car I ever had and I really felt that I was going to win that race. But I was taken out by Robby Gordon, who went on to win. That was the biggest bummer of my racing career.

Q: What were some of the craziest things you have done around racing?

BORIS: Visiting San Quentin prison before the 2003 Sonoma Cup race was both scary and crazy, especially when I was in the execution chamber and laid down on the lethal injection table. The guard told me I was the first person to get up from that table. That was spooky. Another wild experience was walking through the camp grounds at Talladega (Superspeedway) on a Saturday night with Ernie (Irvan) and Jerry (Nadeau). That's something I'll never forget. The craziest bunch of fans I've ever seen in my life. It's hard to explain what it was like there. But you know what -- the fans were great -- we had a good time with them.

Q: Outside of racing what do you enjoy to do?

BORIS: I love to play golf -- I have a six handicap and play as often as I can.

Q: Do you have any friends on the PGA Tour?

BORIS: I got to know Mark O'Mera and Stuart Appleby, and through Mark, I got to meet Tiger. I even played a few holes with Mark and Tiger. Great people to be around -- a lot of fun.


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ernie Irvan , Boris Said , Joe Nemechek , Robby Gordon , Casey Mears , Paul Newman , Bob Sharp