Hired Guns On The Mark
June 21, 2003 | 10:01 A.M. EST
Other Trans-Am Series regulars qualifying for the Winston Cup event were Scott Pruett, driver of the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR and Johnny Miller (No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR), who will make his Winston Cup debut Sunday.
Said toured the 1.949-mile road course in a record one minute, 16.522 seconds at an average speed of 93.620 miles per hour.
Said is substituting for the injured Jerry Nadeau in the Winston Cup Series race, driving the No. 01 Army Pontiac Grand Prix. Said, who earned his first Winston Cup pole, led a trio of Trans-Am Series veterans in qualifying, as Robby Gordon, who won in his lone Trans-Am Series start at Long Beach in 1992 in a Roush Mustang, was second fastest, ahead of Trans-Am Series journeyman Ron Fellows, who competed in the Series from 1995-1997.
“That was a good lap,” said Said, who is also competing in the NASCAR Southwest Tour Race here this weekend. “This is big for our sponsor, but it’s also big for me. It’s huge. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would have won a Winston Cup pole. The regulars always come through at the end, but just to get this under my belt, and to finish in the top 10 on Sunday, I’ll be happy.
“I have to con Jay Frye out of a car for Daytona,“ added Said, who through his pole-winning effort automatically qualifies to compete in the Daytona 500 next year. “But right now, I have to qualify the Southwest Tour car and later, the Trans-Am Series car, so I still have a lot of work to do today.”
Gordon remarked that it was a reunion for him. Gordon competed with Fellows at Long Beach in the Trans-Am Series race there in 1992.
“We raced the Trans-Am Series a long time ago,” said Gordon. “Boris came into the Trans-Am Series after us, but Ron and I raced Long Beach almost 10 years ago.
“Those guys, Ron and Boris, are really good race car drivers,” added Gordon. “They should be able to come here, and race with us. If they can get into good cars, and compete with us, I see no reason they can’t come here and play.”
Fellows, who is filling in for the injured Jeff Green in the No. 1 Chevrolet Monte Carlo in this weekend’s NASCAR race, was elated with his third-place effort.
“We made a bunch of changes in practice,” said Fellows, who competed in a Chevrolet Corvette just a week ago in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. “We found what we needed for qualifying.
“I’m still a little jet lagged,” added Fellows. “The difficulty of Le Mans is more than the time change. You’re coming off doing a series of sprint races during the course of a 24-hour period. You’re up for nearly 40 hours before you get to sleep.”
Pruett qualified 18th for the event, in the No. 09 Dodge being fielded by the Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team.
“I was hoping to be a little quicker than we were,” said Pruett. “We struggled with setup, took the conservative approach and we ran out of time. We’re going to focus on tomorrow morning, and we’re focused on winning on Sunday, in both races.”
Miller, who is driving the No. 5 Kodak Pontiac owned by Morgan-McClure Motorsports, qualified 36th.
“The car feels like it’s so much better than you think it is,” said Miller. “It’s kind of a faith thing. I got comfortable in the car this morning in practice. We did pretty well. We qualified and that’s what we set out to do. The team failed to qualify for its last race, so qualifying was our goal. Now, we’ll set our sights on Sunday.
“I have less than a race in the car,” added Miller. “So, when I get some more time in the car, I think I’ll do better. Plus, I plan to win the Trans-Am Series race. The Trans-Am Series cars are so much fun to drive, and the Series is so competitive. I’m really in my element there.”