Iteleconference:/I Boris Said
June 21, 2005 | 1:58 P.M. EST
Boris Said, driver of the No. 36 CENTRIX Financial Chevrolet, was this week's guest on the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference heading into this weekend's race at Infineon Raceway. Said, who is one of the best road racers in the business, won his first Cup Series pole at Infineon in 2003.
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 1998 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.