SONOMA, Calif., June 21, 2003 -- Boris Said is to NASCAR what John Force is to the NHRA--you never know what words are going to come out of his mouth. In the age of the canned quote and the manufactured sound bite, Said is a refreshing change of...
SONOMA, Calif., June 21, 2003 -- Boris Said is to NASCAR what John Force is to the NHRA--you never know what words are going to come out of his mouth. In the age of the canned quote and the manufactured sound bite, Said is a refreshing change of pace.
When he drove the No. 01 U.S. Army Pontiac Grand Prix to the first pole of his seven-race NASCAR Winston Cup career on Friday--and the first pole for Pontiac this season--all ears were on the 40-year-old Californian. He didn't disappoint, regaling the assembled media with tales of a recent tour of the famed prison at San Quentin.
Said is a road racer, pure and simple. A longtime instructor at the Skip Barber Driving School, Said is a supreme example of the breed. His pole and track record were the first for MB2 Motorsports since 1998 (Ernie Irvan). Last season, Said won eight Trans-Am races in 12 starts to earn his first Trans-Am title, cobbling together 11 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. In 58 career Trans-Am starts, Said has finished in the top 10 an astounding 45 times, with 31 top-fives and 11 career victories. He is also director of motorsports for No Fear, the racing apparel company started by brothers Mark and Brian Simo as well as a professional driving coach. He began his career 15 years ago at the age of 25.
BORIS SAID , NO. 01 U.S. ARMY PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
YOU'VE HAD SEVEN STARTS IN WINSTON CUP. WERE THEY ALL ON ROAD COURSES?
"Nope, I ran one oval. It was at Homestead in the Irvan/Simo Winston Cup car."
WHEN YOU COME HERE, YOU'RE ALWAYS A THREAT FOR THE POLE, BUT SOMETHING GOES WRONG. YESTERDAY, WHAT WAS DIFFERENT?
"The biggest thing is, the driver can't do everything. I'm with the best team I've ever been with, it's a full-time team. It's not a part-time effort where they get some guys and throw them together, I've worked with Ryan [Pemberton] for a few years and it all clicked. Everything went smooth and there were no problems of any kind." EVEN WITH THE GEARBOX BLOWING UP? "It wasn't really the gearbox. It was just the pinion in the rear end that blew out of it. We were good until then and we were working on race setup all morning. It didn't really put a hiccup in. I only did one more lap and it was quick."
SHOULD EVERYTHING CONTINUE TO GO YOUR WAY ON SUNDAY, AND YOU WOUND UP WINNING THE RACE, WHAT WOULD THAT MEAN TO BORIS SAID?
"It would be indescribable. To me, my goal is a top-10, and if I can finish in the top five, that is like a victory. Who knows? It's not like I'm not going to try to win the race, but I'm realistic. I need to be patient and not overdrive it. If we won...already the pole is the biggest accomplishment I've ever had in racing, and it's the hardest thing I've ever done. It's better than any win I've had before."
COMING IN HERE TO COMPETE AGAINST DRIVERS LIKE JEFF GORDON, TONY STEWART, TERRY LABONTE AND SOME OF THE OTHERS WHO ARE REGARDED AS SOLID CUP ROAD RACERS, ARE THEY IN YOUR CLASS AS A PROFESSIONAL ROAD RACER?
"Those guys who say they aren't road racers, that's b.s. Look what Jeff Gordon did at Indy in the Formula One car. He made eight laps and he got within a second of the world's best driver. That was amazing. He's one of the best road racers in the world. If he wanted to go Formula One racing, he'd pick it up quick. I think there's a lot of guys in this paddock who could do that too. Tony Stewart is an unbelievable road racer, Kurt Busch...there's a long list of guys."
FLIP THAT AROUND. CAN YOU, AS A WORLD-CLASS ROAD RACER, COME IN HERE AND DO WHAT THESE GUYS DO ON A WEEKLY BASIS?
"I think it's harder to go from a good road-racing car to one of these cars than it is the other way around. Switching back and forth this weekend, when I get in my Trans-Am car, it's easy as heck to drive and make it do what you ask it to do. These cars [Cup cars] are so unforgiving, they have so much horsepower and so little grip and they weigh so much. It's a lot harder to drive. It's harder for a guy who is used to this thing that works great to get in one of these Cup cars and drive it. It's easier the other way."
BRAKING HAS ALWAYS BEEN A WEAK POINT ON CUP CARS WHEN THEY RACE ON A ROAD COURSE. HAS IT GOTTEN BETTER?
"With what Brembo and Alcon and all the pad manufacturers like Performance Friction have been doing, the brakes are getting better and better. They don't stop all that bad anymore. It's just the weight and the wheel size. They're running brakes equal to what we have on the Trans-Am cars."
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT ARE THE BRAKING POINTS BETWEEN THE TRANS-AM CAR AND THE WINSTON CUP PONTIAC?
"It's about 150 feet farther into the corner in the Trans-Am car. If you forget you're in the Cup car and you tried to go 150 feet farther in, you'd wind up in the snack bar."
IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO COME TO WINSTON CUP ON A FULL-TIME BASIS, WOULD YOU?
"In a second."
WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT DRIVING IN CUP FULL-TIME?
"Getting the opportunity. I did the Truck series, and the first year I thought I was making progress. I finished second at Texas and fourth at New Hampshire and I was starting to make good ground on the ovals. I didn't know anything about the cars. I've learned a lot more about the cars now, but it would be a big learning curve. I would really like the opportunity. I'll get an opportunity to show up in Daytona this year for the Bud Shootout. I usually run the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona."
TELL ME ABOUT HELPING DALE EARNHARDT AT WATKINS GLEN.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get the chance to meet Dale Earnhardt. If you liked any driver growing up, that's the guy you want to be like. He was just a never-say-die hard charger. One year, Ty Norris [of DEI] called me and asked me if I would go to Sears Point and help out Dale Jr. I'd never met him before and I didn't know what to expect. Long story short, I came up here and tested for a couple of days, he was a great guy and we got along great. I was racing the Busch race at Fontana a week later, his father came up to me. He was the only guy that ever made me speechless. He grabbed me and said, 'my son said you did a good job, I appreciate it and I owe you one. Thanks a lot." I'm like, 'that's Dale Earnhardt. That was pretty cool.' A few months later, I was up at Watkins Glen driving Jimmy Spencer's Cup car. Dale Earnhardt walked up and asked me if I would drive his car. That was the biggest compliment I've ever had in racing. I got in the car and he said, 'will you fit in this car?' I said, 'no, but I feel like a bad SOB sitting in here.' He said, 'can you drive it?' I told him I would on one condition: I want a picture of me driving this car. I'm the only race fan you've ever let drive your car. After that, I got to know him a little bit. That's kind of the highlight of my career."
MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN IN FAVOR OF NASCAR GETTING RID OF THE ROAD COURSE RACES. WHAT'S YOUR TAKE?
"I don't see how they could do it. The deal is, they run every discipline, the Martinsvilles, the Bristols, Talladegas, superspeedways. There would be 150,000fans at the two road races that would hate that. I'd like to see them add more."
JAY FRYE , GENERAL MANAGER OF MB2 MOTORSPORTS
WHAT DOES BORIS WINNING THE POLE HERE DO FOR YOUR TEAM?
"We're equally as happy for Boris as we are for us. He's been part of this team for a long time and he's worked very hard to achieve this. He's been close numerous times. He went out and got one Friday. We were fastest in practice and then he went out and backed it up with a track record in qualifying. On the team side, we're very excited for the Army, this is their first pole and they're celebrating their 228th birthday. We're very excited for Pontiac, because it's their first pole of the year and we're happy to contribute to that. This team's been through a lot of stuff this year and this certainly puts a little bounce in their step as well. Anytime you achieve sitting on the pole in Winston Cup, it's very difficult to do. That's a huge accomplishment for the weekend, but that's only one part. We think we can win the race. That's step two."
GIVEN WHAT HAS HAPPENED THIS YEAR WITH JERRY NADEAU, HOW IS TEAM MORALE?
"It's been very good. Obviously, that weekend in Charlotte when we were about to qualify and he called, that changed the whole morale of the whole team. Everybody knew then that he was going to be OK. Not that we didn't all think that before, but that was our first contact with him other than him just reacting to stimulus and things like that. Since that point, it's really turned around. HOW IS JERRY? "He's got two or three more weeks of outpatient rehab and then they'll evaluate him again and determine what his next steps are."
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON?
"It's a race-to-race thing. We're not sure how long Jerry is going to be out. If Jerry's not at Watkins Glen, Boris has agreed to do that. Mike Wallace is going to be in the car as long as need him."