When you’re a ringer who specializes in helping NASCAR teams on road courses, you probably have learned a thing or two about coming into a team and getting good results. Just don’t ask Boris Said to explain what they might be, because he can’t.
“I guess I would like to say I have learned things but I have never done it any other way so I don’t really know,” he said.
“I mean there’s a feel of the car I like, but it’s unfortunate that you don’t get a whole lot of practice on race weekends so you have to get it done quickly. If the car’s good off the trailer that makes it a lot easier, so that’s what I am kind of hoping.”
Actually, Said’s plan for this weekend’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen is pretty simple: Get as much out of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota as possible, make no mistakes, and be there at the end.
"I am going there with the intention of trying to get that car in a position to win the race.” -Boris Said
“My realistic goal is to try to get the car in a position to be in the top-10 near the end of the race and if I can do that, then my goal is going to be getting into the top-5,” he said.
“And if I can be in the top-5 with 10 to go, then I think anything is possible. I am going there with the intention of trying to get that car in a position to win the race.”
Said was drafted by the Red Bull team to drive the No. 83 at The Glen based on his past success in running road course events for NASCAR teams. Or maybe Red Bull is hoping to appeal to the legions of Boris’ fans, known as Said Heads, in a desperate bid to expand its market share in the middle-aged, curly wig-wearing man category.
Although with his 12 top-10 finishes in 31 NASCAR road course starts in both Sprint Cup and Nationwide series races, it’s likely he was chosen for his uncanny ability to get a stock around a race track.
He replaces Reed Sorenson, who started the past five races in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota as a fill-in for its regular driver Brian Vickers, who is out for the rest of the year as he undergoes treatment for blood clots.
One of the big keys to performing well in the race will be taking care of the brakes as he slows the 3,500-pound Cup car 11 times per lap at The Glen. And a good handling car doesn’t hurt either, Said joked.
NASCAR runs on a shortened version of the Watkins Glen track, using an 11-turn, 2.45-mile layout that cuts out four corners and about a mile from the lap.
While the longer track is Said’s favorite in North America, he thinks fans see better racing from NASCAR on the cut-down version.
“I love the long track and I wish we could race on it, but even the short track is still fun,” he said. “That track actually suits the stock cars really well in a road race. You can use them there, unlike Infineon Raceway, which is hard on the cars because they are so heavy.”
The biggest obstacle he’ll face this weekend is racing for the Red Bull team for the first time.
“The challenge is getting that cohesiveness with the team and communication with the crew chief that is built over time,” Said explained. “It makes it tougher but not impossible.”
His teammate for the weekend, Scott Speed, has plenty of experience on twisty tracks from his days in open wheel, including Formula One, but it really hasn’t translated into road course success in NASCAR. The best he’s finished on a road course in three Cup starts was 18th earlier this year at Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway, although he did start fourth and finish 10th in the Nationwide race at The Glen last year.
“The way the car reacts is obviously quite a bit different than how things work in an open wheel car,” he said.
“I don’t feel like I have a huge advantage with my background.”