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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Boris Said
June 21, 2005

DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR/NEXTEL Teleconference. First, our usual housekeeping. The NEXTEL Wake-Up Call will take a break this week. Look for it to resume in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway for the Pepsi 400. Today, were joined by Boris Said, who is always a welcome addition in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup garage. He's competing this season under the MB/Sutton Motorsports umbrella as a teammate to Joe Nemechek and Scott Riggs, and he particularly excels at road course racing. This weekend, he will drive the No. 36 CENTRIX Financial Chevrolet this weekend at Infineon Raceway, where he has two consecutive sixth-place finishes. He is also more than a visitor this season to the NASCAR/NEXTEL Cup garage. He is planning on running about 13 races for MB/Sutton Motorsports in 2005, and this weekend should be his fifth start of the season. Boris, I know you've worked with so many of your peers, helping them hone road-course skills, and of course, it's your specialty. What do NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers need to excel at road racing?

BORIS SAID: Just some subtle differences in how you brake and how you get in the gas. It's just a little different than the normal racing. Once you point it out, it's like, you know, it's like putting a duck in the water. They just know how to swim. Most of them picked it up really well. The example, Carl Edwards, he never road-raced in his life and he spent a couple of days at VIR and we went down to Mexico and he's the fastest car there. Good drivers pick it up pretty quick.

DENISE MALOOF: That sounds good. Let's take some questions for you.

Q. I was kind of picking up on the last question, but as you look back over the years since you started racing on the road courses in the Cup cars, how different have the drivers become? How much better are they now than when you started, and when did you start racing?

BORIS SAID: I think '98 was the first time I ever got in a Cup car at Watkins Glen when I substituted for Jimmy Spencer, and the difference from then to now is it's a thousand percent different. Back then, it was so easy to go from the back to the front. I couldn't believe how easy it felt that first race weekend. Now they are all so good and they all have cars with really good brakes and they all brake, you know, really deep. So it's just really hard to pass and it's really competitive. I think even the oval races have probably gotten that much competitive, too. I don't know, I'm just guessing. I just think the sport in general has gotten a lot more competitive, but teams have taken it a lot more seriously since then. Before they just used to blow off the two road races like, oh, that's just two races, but now the points are so close, they take it seriously. They test, they build special cars, and now you've got some great race weekends.

Q. Does your advantage come not only from your driving skills, but also knowing what a car needs or where the car needs to be as far as the setup is concerned?

BORIS SAID: I don't think it's an advantage. I think it's more that I don't have a disadvantage like I do when I go to an oval, because when I get on Texas, or Charlotte in particular, because I missed that race weekend, I don't have the experience yet to know what the car needs. I don't know; does the car need to be better or do I need to drive different? But when we get on a road course, I kind of know. I have a good feeling on how much the car can do and what's the limit, and I have a good feeling and I know what to change to make the car better. So I just think I'm not at a disadvantage, and all of those guys that race those cars week-in and week-out, for them it's like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes. They just know; it's second nature to them.

Q. And finally, will you go to visit the prison before you go to the race?

BORIS SAID: Yeah, we do it every year. We take our crew guys. We'll take Frankie Stoddard this year, I don't know if he's tall enough for the height line, but we'll try to sneak him in. They don't allow kids. But it's a pretty interesting trip to go to San Quentin and see the inner workings of a prison that's working with inmates walking around.

Q. When other races are you planning on doing this year?

BORIS SAID: We're going to do Daytona next week, the Pepsi 400, and the next two are Indianapolis, the Brickyard, Watkins Glen, and then we're going to do Fontana in the fall, Texas, Kansas City, Charlotte, and I think that might be it.

Q. How come so much at the end of the year and not more like in the first few races here?

BORIS SAID: Because starting from nothing, they needed to build cars and get ready, and that's just the way the sponsor ended up picking the races that were beneficial to them.

Q. When you go visit the prison again, you are going to take them into the death chamber or whatever?

BORIS SAID: Hopefully we'll be able to get into it. That's a hard place to get into but hopefully.

Q. Talking specifically about this Sonoma race course, what are the couple of areas that are really the most key in terms of getting through and keeping your concentration at its highest, where maybe the most treacherous spots where if you lose your concentration for a fraction of a couple of seconds you end up off the track?

BORIS SAID: That's kind of what makes Infineon unique. There are no straightaways, so you never have a chance to rest. Like Watkins Glen you have these long straightaways and you can take a second to gather your thoughts. Infineon is tough because it takes -- there isn't just one area like that. The whole track is just constant off-camera, uphill, downhill, very fast S's, the whole track is like that, where if you lose concentration, you're in trouble. You're probably going off the road. You know, probably if you singled out one area, turn ten is probably the most important turn on the track, and it's the fastest turn, and it leads on to the best passing spot going into turn 11. So it's probably one of most important places.

Q. Is it my imagination, or are there more guys in the last few years that have been maybe losing the edge a little bit and spinning out than in past years?

BORIS SAID: I don't think that they are losing the edge. I think that the competition is so fierce that, you know, no longer do you just ride around for, you know, three quarters of the race and then run hard at the end. You've got to run hard from the time they drop the green flag to the time the checkered flag comes out. They just think that makes more mistakes. You're just trying harder.

Q. And then I know you know Allison Duncan from the American Le Mans seen. Do you think that she's got the ability to be a full-time driver on maybe the Craftsman or the Busch or even the NEXTEL Cup series in the future?

BORIS SAID: You know, it's hard to say. I mean, she's definitely a good road racer in a sports car, and I would say this to everyone, even if it was Michael Schumacher. It's a different sport. You know, that's like asking Tiger Woods, do you think he would be a good tennis player. Probably, if he uses what he used to become the greatest golfer in the world, he probably would be a great tennis player. And it would be the same thing for Allison. If she came in, she would really have to take a step back and start over and really rethink, you know, driving a big, heavy car, because it's totally different than driving a light little sports car. But she does a great job in the ALMS series, that's the only place I've ever really seen her. I think she's done a good job.

Q. As you said, the heightened awareness and heightened emphasis on the road course, training and the like, but is it perception that the road courses are more difficult, or is it just a matter of the lack of exposure to the road courses for some of the oval track drivers?

BORIS SAID: I think it's just experience because for me, the road course is easier than, you know, going to Texas or Charlotte or Daytona. But for guys like, you know, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or anyone like that, you know, 90 percent of their experience is overly racing, yeah, I think it's harder for them.

Q. What makes it difficult for you making that transition from road course to oval track?

BORIS SAID: Just that it's so different. The cars are really heavy and you're traveling at a lot faster speed. So you're traveling, you're going 200 miles an hour; that's 300 feet per second, so it's easy to miss your marks. You always hear, "hit your marks." You have to get used to that and you have to get used to what the car needs to make a turn and be able to get the gas hard.

Q. Does a short track add an added dimension of difficulty, maybe taking the oval track to the next step, or do you find the short tracks like Martinsville, Bristol and even Richmond easier?

BORIS SAID: No, I just think that it's different disciplines. That's what's great about NASCAR. You have the discipline of running a super speedway, you have the discipline of running a road course, and then you have your mile-and-a-half discipline, and then you have your short track disciplines that are even different than two. You have Martinsville is a lot different than driving a Bristol. So to win the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship, you have to be -- it's like the decathlon in the Olympics. You have to be good at all the events, like Greg Biffle. He'll be strong on the road course this weekend, and you just can see he's strong everywhere else, too, just like Jeff Gordon. I mean, he's unbelievable on the road course, and he pretty much wins on every other kind of, too.

Q. I was wondering if you could take us through a lap at Infineon and sort of tell us what you're doing inside the car as you go through, if you don't mind taking the time to do that for us.

BORIS SAID: Yeah, you cross third finish and that's about the fastest you're going, just shift into high gear. You know, at turn one, it's very fast in Sonoma. Just before the end of the pit wall, you're kind of easing it out of the gas, a little bit of brake. You go down on one gear, third gear, as you turn up the hill, and get back on the gas pretty hard for a split second. And then you're trying to get the car turned back to the right for turn two. You downshift to second, and now you're in second gear headed for 3B, which is very hard. You get traction in the forward bite off turn two. As you heard down towards turn three, it's a downhill dip left, and you've got to get that just right. It's easy to overdrive it in there, and if you overdrive it in there, the car will use up too much of the road around the left-hander, and you won't be set up for the right-hander over 3B, which is up over the top of the hill where you usually see the cars airborne. And it's all one gear there, second gear now, with the way the motors, the RPM, the motors turned. And as you come down the hill, I call it turn six, the new NASCAR right-hander, you know, you go very deep on the brakes, you know, maybe to the three marker, just a little deeper, and it's real easy to get axle-hop there. And maximum braking there, and when you're off the brakes, turning hard to the right and you're in the gas as soon as you can, and to do it really fast and carry momentum, you're usually going over the curbing and just barely missing the Styrofoam blocks they have there. And then you're headed wide open down into turn seven and very hard braking, down to first gear, trying to get the car to turn. It's very tight for those big, heavy cars, and as you turn to the right there on the curbing, you're in first gear, you're trying to get into the gas, but you can't really go full power or else they will just spin the tires. So you short-shift second, still can't really get to the power all the way, because it will spin tires. And as you go about 100 yards, it will hook up and you'll be in third gear going into the S's, turn eight. And very fast, the car is moving around a lot and you're just trying to stay in the gas as much as you can through eight and nine down the hill. Shift high gear, and that long, left-hand sweeper, and now you're coming into probably the hardest turn on the track with turn ten, fast right hander and it requires not much braking, a little downshift to third gear. And as the car turns in, you're right back in the gas going down to turn 11 and your best passing zone on the track, you're braking real hard, going down to first gear. And you have that long 180 and then you're just headed up through the gears back to the start finish line, first, second, third, fourth.

Q. Carl Edwards was saying that you worked with him some teaching him about Infineon. Are there a lot of drivers that you do training for road courses with and who are they? -

BORIS SAID: Pretty much anyone that asks. I've gone out and tested with a lot of people. You know, Dale Earnhardt probably the most famous, Carl Edwards, John Wood, Jamie McMurray. I'm trying to think of names, probably about 20 of them, but a lot of different people. Tested Dale Jarrett's car and Jimmy Spencer, Johnny Benson, Sterling Marlin's car. Yeah, a lot of people like that, Elliott Sadler.

Q. What's the biggest obstacle on a road course when you're driving a stock car versus sports car or something lighter; is it just the braking for the most part?

BORIS SAID: It's more managing the weight. They are so heavy these cars and they have so much horsepower, so you're managing the weight and trying to get the thing to turn and change direction. And then you've got, you know, you have to get the power down because it's easy to spin the tires.

Q. Do you have any thoughts about the Formula I Michelin tire debacle last week?

BORIS SAID: I think, I mean, I can't say it on the air but I think those F-1 guys are a bunch of pussies. I mean, that's a joke they didn't give the fans a race. I was shocked. I don't -- I don't think it was Ferrari's fault. Bridgestone had a tire that could make it, and I think the Michelin guys should have raced and they just should have slowed down. That's just the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in racing. I mean, if I was a driver, I wouldn't have come in. I would have stayed out and I probably would have gotten in a lot of trouble.

Q. Given you had a choice, would you rather win, the Volvo GT1 category with the Corvette or any Capris?

BORIS SAID: I mean, it's a pretty neat race, but I don't think it's that big a deal. I raced Evergreen this year, the 24 hours --

Q. And you did very well.

BORIS SAID: And for me that was one of the hardest races in the world to win. I think the only thing that could top that would be to win a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race.

Q. Do you have any idea why so many drivers teams and fans think you are cool?

BORIS SAID: No, I don't, because I think I'm kind of a dork. I have no idea.

Q. You have a personable way of conveying your racing etiquette, did you learn that or did you think it came naturally?

BORIS SAID: It's just naturally. I've always been a pretty brutally honest guy, and sometimes it gets me in trouble and sometimes it doesn't. But you pretty much know where you stand with me.

Q. So it's probably the honesty then you think that people are attracted to maybe?

BORIS SAID: I really couldn't tell you. You'd have to ask someone else because I don't know if I would be attracted to myself.

DENISE MALOOF: Tell us a little bit about the effort this year for you and in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. I know you're trying to ramp up to where you're running more events and you have 13 scheduled this year. How is it going so far?

BORIS SAID: It's awesome. I've never had this kind of opportunity before. I've been trying and trying and trying to get someone to give me the opportunity and you know, CENTRIX Financial came on board last year as the Official Auto Finance Company of NASCAR, and it's kind of a funny coincidence, because they are known for, you know, making people realize their dreams. People that want cars get turned down everywhere they go and that's what they specialize in. It's kind of ironic that they are my sponsor. They are giving me a chance to do 14 -- 13 or 14 races. If I can prove that I can do it on the ovals, then I think I'll get a chance to do more races next year. It's a long shot, given the experience that I have on the ovals, but I welcome the challenge and I'm having a great time. It's going to help me on the road courses. Last year, when I show up at Sears Point, usually that's the first time I've seen the crew guys or been in a car since Watkins Glenn in August the year before. And just, you know, working with the guys in Daytona and doing these long races, even though we have only done three or four races, I'm just way ahead of where I was last year.

DENISE MALOOF: What's the learning curve so far? What have you learned running a few more races than normal?

BORIS SAID: I mean, these guys are good. It's amazing how fast they go, and I mean, I think I can drive a car pretty deep into a corner and these guys on these ovals, you think that it's as deep as you can go, and they go by you 300 feet deeper than you. It's amazing. You just can't really relate it on TV what they are actually doing and how hard it is, and that's what makes them the best drivers in the world.

DENISE MALOOF: With all of the time spent tutoring your peers on road course racing, how have they helped you? How have they turned around and returned that favor and said, "Okay, here is what you need to really get into the oval part of what we do?"

BORIS SAID: A lot. I mean, the stuff I'm getting from Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Jamie McMurray and Elliot Sadler and Jimmie Johnson at Charlotte. It's just stuff that, I mean, just cuts the learning time down a lot. If I didn't get help from these guys, I would have looked like a monkey out there on all of these races. Not that I've set the world on fire yet, but I've been respectable making most of the races I've entered. I've only missed one and feel pretty proud about that. But they have just given me so much information that just -- still, you need to go out there and experience it, and say, okay, that's what they are talking about and then just, you know, you need more laps.

DENISE MALOOF: What do you think it will take, a full season or will it be another season, say, of a part-time schedule once you get that team revved up? What's your timetable?

BORIS SAID: Well, I put more pressure on myself than anybody, and people want to see results, but Scott Riggs is a perfect example. He was a front-runner in Tucks and front-runner in Busch, and he came to Cup last year and he struggled the first half of the year, the first 15 or so races. For a while, it looked like, that's a bad investment; he's not going to pay off. But then his experience showed and he turned things around, and now I think he's, you know, he's showing everyone that he deserves to be there. And so I kind of hope it's like that for me, and maybe, you know, it hopefully won't take that long for me, but, you know, I hope I see the same progress like Scott Riggs has. He's helped me a lot and Joe Nemechek has helped me a lot. We really work well together, the three of us.

DENISE MALOOF: That's got to be something that is just so, so helpful to you to be part of a team like that.

BORIS SAID: Yeah, because right now, I go to the races and I don't have to come with a setup that they are just shooting out of the hip. We know that, all right we go to the track, exactly with what Joe Nemechek has and Joe Nemechek can run this. So if I can go as fast as him like that, at least I'm in the ballpark. He's been a big help with that.

DENISE MALOOF: I am curious about one thing. You've been around long enough now with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series that you have a sense of how the racing has improved and how it's gotten tighter and tighter and tighter. Do you see that this year, do you see it as tight and as tough as it's ever been?

BORIS SAID: I think you see it more than it's ever been. Let's look at the Charlotte race, for example. I heard a comment by Kevin Lepage, you know, that there are so many wrecks and so many crashes, and his comment was, "Well, people are just racing too hard." Well, that's what you're supposed to be doing. You see how competitive it is and how fast they are going. Yeah, stuff is going to happen when you're trying that hard. It's just never been this competitive before, and I think that's what makes the sport awesome.

DENISE MALOOF: Boris, thank for joining us today. We appreciate you giving us some time. Good luck with your prison visit. Stay out of trouble.

BORIS SAID: Hopefully I'll get out of there.

DENISE MALOOF: You will. Good luck on Sunday, and thanks everybody for your participation. We'll see you next week.

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