Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Irrepressible Boris Said is baaaack....and he says Sunday's Glen sprint will be even wilder than Sonoma

  Boris Said: a world-class road racer, and NASCAR veteran...who could be a strong darkhorse Sunday at Watkins Glen (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   When it comes to road racing at Sonoma or the Glen, Boris Said arrives at the track with a simple philosophy: "You either have to be the bug or be the windshield."
   And if that June stop north of San Francisco was zany, with even normally mild-mannered, calculating guys like Jeff Gordon going berserk, Said says you ain't seen nothing yet.
   It just wouldn't be a NASCAR road race without Boris Said and the Said Heads, his wild-haired 'groupies.'
   Said here is driving the car that Brian Vickers would be driving if he weren't still recovering from May's mysterious blood clots. Vickers hasn't been around trackside much this summer, and he apparently won't be back to talk about his recovery and his future until Bristol Aug. 21st.
   Said is typically one of the most dangerous men on a NASCAR road course, and because he's so good at this, he has to be careful that rivals don't simply take him out...which they have done on more than one occasion.
   This time Said, one of the world's top road racers and most versatile, says he's much more confident about things heading into Sunday's Cup sprint here.
   – First, because he doesn't have to sweat out missing the Cup race because of rained-out qualifying, which has bitten him here five times now.
   -- Second, because he's got some of the best equipment he's ever had, driving the Jay Frye stuff that Mattias Ekström performed so well in at Sonoma, leading seven laps, rather amazing really for a guy who'd never done any of this before.
   "My mind here this weekend is so at ease....So I've got a different kind of pressure here," Said was saying as dawn broke Friday at this legendary road course in the picturesque upstate Finger Lakes.
   "The pressure is like being a hired gun to go out and perform for the team. Not to do anything stupid...but here this weekend I've got one of the best opportunities I've ever had. I've never come to Watkins Glen and not had to worry about rain or qualifying; I know I'm in the race Sunday.
   "So I will be a lot more aggressive than I have been in qualifying here in sometime. If I spin, I spin."
   He'll get to show his stuff in that part of the game in Saturday qualifying.

   The car Boris Said has here is the same car (the blue Red Bull car) that Mattias Ekstrom matched wits with winner Jimmie Johnson (48) here at Sonoma in June (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   With Vickers on the sidelines Frye has been plugging in various drivers, first Casey Mears for three races, then road racing specialist Ekstrom at Sonoma, then Reed Sorenson the last few races.
    With Said suddenly available, putting him in this car was a no-brainer.   

   But, gosh, these other drivers have flat gone crazy at times this season, with wild driving like you've never seen.
   Is Said up to that part of the challenge?
   How mean and angry does a man have to be in this sport this season to win, or just survive?
   Said says he'll be a little tougher this time around than in June. "At Infineon (Sonoma) when I was leading late, I was trying to go easy and just play it safe....and I wound up getting beat up on two restarts and knocked back," Said says.
   "You have to be aggressive, almost as a preventive.
   "Now I don't want to mess up anybody's championship chances. Me as a part-timer....So I have to be a little careful around the guys who are trying to make the chase and trying to win the championship. I keep that in the back of my head.
   "But I was hired to do a job, and I've got to drive 100 percent. I can't back down.
   "It's a tough situation."
   On top of that, some of the guys who are behind the 12-man cut "have to make something happen," Said realizes, if they want to make the playoffs.
   And that adds a level of aggression to keep in mind. "It's getting to crunch time for some people."

    Said realizes this is one of his best shots ever at winning a Cup event. And he also realizes this season of 'boys, have at it' has turned his rivals here into monsters out on the asphalt.
   In fact Said got a dose of that first-hand at Sonoma, when Tony Stewart took offense at Said's aggressive tactics late in that incredibly wild and crazy race and bopped him in the rear on the post-race cool-down lap. And Said still remembers how hot Jeff Burton got with him at Sonoma a few years back, when Burton wound up knocked off into the dirt, losing some valuable playoff points.
   Said insists he and Stewart have made up.....
    "Tony is still on my Christmas card list. I'm still a Tony Stewart fan," Said says. "At Sonoma at the end I think everybody was just mad at everybody.
   "Tony thought I was a little too aggressive on the last restart when I passed him....but really I don't think he was as angry with anything I did as he was just frustrated at the whole day."

   And you wonder why there aren't grandstands on the outside of the first turn here at the Glen.....These drivers sometimes get a little carried away on those double-file restarts, downhill into that sharp right-hander. Can these guys really go four-wide there? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    There's more to this than just this race and this driver. Guys on the crew are getting a bit upset at the summer-long run of rumors about the future of the two-car Red Bull operation. Meanwhile Scott Speed, the team's other driver, is still waiting to find out if his contract will be renewed; he has some performance clauses to hit, and so far it doesn't look like he's hit them all, though that doesn't necessarily mean he's out of a ride at the end of the season.
    And of course there is more to this particular operation than just stock cars – Red Bull's Formula 1 operation has been at the top of the charts all season.
    "This is a powerhouse operation all over the world, Red Bull, especially in Formula 1," Said says. "To see what these guys have done over there in just three years is pretty impressive."
    And maybe there is some trickle-down.
    Curiously perhaps, ex-F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya, despite his only Cup tour win coming at Sonoma (2007), doesn't seem very impressed with these hulking, awkward stockers on road courses.
   Said says that's not the full story.  "When I talk with Juan Pablo about Formula 1," Said says, "he says 'Aw, those cars are boring. You don't do anything. You just mash the gas and go.'
   "These cars here you have to drive them; they don't handle like a Formula 1 car, and it takes a lot of talent and a lot of work to make it go. It's a challenge."
   When the season opened, "I thought I had my dream shot, in the 26 car, with Frankie Stoddard.....but it just didn't work out," Said said.
   They got through the first four races but then ran dry. This is his first race since finishing eighth with Stoddard at Sonoma. And his next run will be in Montreal later this month in the Nationwide race.
   "I've been with Frankie five or six years, and I think he's one of the best in the business," Said says. "But I've been running my own car here, on a limited budget.
    "Now this team has a lot of resources, and a pit crew that works every weekend.
   "But I haven't tested at all this year. I've been in the car very little this year. We never tested the 26 car before Sonoma."

   The best road course driver in NASCAR? At one time Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace. Now?
   Even unheralded Kasey Kahne, after some lessons with Said (that's been part of his job over the years, a road racing driving coach), has become a top road racer, winning last summer at Sonoma.
   "You can't pick one winner any more," Said says. "There are 10 guys who can win pretty easily: Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon...Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo, Marcos Ambrose.....
   "It's not like it was 10 years ago, when one or two guys stood out.
   "Ten years ago I could say 'Yeah, I've got a few tricks here.' But by now everyone has caught up."
   Strategy here? Used to be crew chiefs would try to make the distance on two stops, going 30 laps, 30 laps, 30 laps. "But now with triple green-white-checkereds, and those wild double-file restarts, with cautions breeding cautions, you may have to plan for going 40 laps at the end," Said says.
   "I wouldn't want to be a crew chief here.
   "If people didn't like those double-file restarts at Sonoma, and all that action...
   "However, those double-file restarts at Sonoma were pretty straightforward, because it's hard enough to keep just one car on the track. This course will lend itself to more action, because even though you can spread out through the (uphill) esses, you'll still be three-wide heading into the 'bus-stop' chicane. It will definitely be action-packed at the end.
   "Those double-file restarts may be tough on car owners and the guys in the body shop who have to fix these things. But for the fans and the drivers, they're great."

   The Burton incident two years ago? "At the time I thought it was Jeff Burton's fault, but after I saw the replay I realized it was my fault," Said says. "Sometimes in the car it doesn't look the same."
   Jeff Gordon, a wild man at Sonoma two months ago, can relate.
   "I saw Jeff Gordon on the outside of me one time in June, and I thought to myself 'Is he nuts?'" Said said. "That's stupid; there's no way you can do that.
   "So I tried to give him some room, because I was pretty sure he was wrecking.
   "I figured he was either that stupid or that good....and he was that good. It amazed me. Like, 'Wow!' how did he do that? That's one of those moments I remember forever.
   "You have to race people the way you want to be raced, or it will come back to haunt you. And I know if I start whacking Tony Stewart, he's going to have me off somewhere.
   "So I try to treat people the way I want to be treated."
   At least till the final laps.
   "Once the pay window starts to open, people start to take more chances," Said says. "You can have a lot of friends...until it gets down to the last 10 laps.
   "And when that pay window opens, I'd wreck  my best friend to win."
        [Note: You can use Twitter as an easy headline service for mikemulhern.net stories, with our instant Tweets to your mobile as soon as our newest NASCAR story is filed. And mikemulhern.net is mobile-friendly for viewing. You can also use the orange RSS feed button as a quickie headline service on your laptop or home computer for mikemulhern.net stories, by creating a Live Bookmark RSS feed on your web browser's toolbar. Or you can create a Google Alert for mikemulhernnet.]


  Sonoma, the stock car tour's most recent road race, was wild and zany (Boris Said in the black 'AIR car) (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com