WATKINS GLEN — Nothing says road course racing in NASCAR quite like Boris Said.
For the last two decades, Said has been synonymous with the circuit’s visits to tracks featuring left and right turns. Along the way he’s inspired an army of “Said Heads,” fans who don wigs paying tribute to Said’s signature ’do. Few — if any — drivers have amassed a larger fan base running such a limited schedule.
Sunday's Cup race at Watkins Glen International just be might be Said’s last, though.
“It’ll probably be my last NASCAR race,” Said told The Spectator Friday during an appearance for his sponsor, the Rochester-based Genesee Brewery. “I still might do a sports car race here and there. I’ve done this for a long time. I have to stop sooner or later. I’ll be 55 next month. I still love it. I’m not saying (this is it) for sure, but probably.”
If this is Said’s final ride in NASCAR, Watkins Glen is perhaps the perfect place to call it a career. It’s where he made his NASCAR debut in 1998, winning the pole in his first-ever Busch Series race. Said has run a Cup car every year at The Glen since.
“Watkins Glen was my first NASCAR race back in 1998 when I subbed for Jimmy Spencer,” Said recalled. “It’s my favorite track, my favorite place to go. Watkins Glen has the best fans. I just love everything about it. It’s cool to end it here.”
Times have changed at The Glen. When Said began his NASCAR career, the field would be littered with road course ringers, aces who could score a good finish in a one-off appearance. Those days have gone by the wayside as the rest of the garage has caught up to the intricacies of road course racing — in no small part due to Said, who has coached up dozens of drivers over the years.
Still, Said managed to score an Xfinity win at Montreal in 2010. His best Cup finish at Watkins Glen was a third-place run in 2005. Each race has had its own memorable moments.
“Man, there’s a lot of them,” Said remarked on his favorite Watkins Glen memories. “I’ve won a lot of races here in different things, never a NASCAR race though, unfortunately. I’ve had some really good races, I’ve had some bad races, I’ve screwed up some races. I’ve had my share of everything here. In a way, they’re all good memories.”
Said is hoping to add one more good memory Sunday driving the No. 33 Genesee Brewery car fielded by Circle Sport/TMG. Said drove for the team at Sonoma earlier this season, finishing 29th with sponsorship from HendrickCars.com and a Hendrick motor.
His Chevrolet has Hendrick power under the hood again this weekend, but Said and the team have some work to do after a trip through the grass during Saturday's final practice session forced them to roll out the backup car. Said hopes the rest of the weekend is a little less eventful.
“If we can be 20th to 25th, I think that would be pretty good for the team,” he said. “It’s a low-budget team, but you never know here with the way pitstops work out. We have a Hendrick motor in the car. My partner Rick Hendrick gave us a motor for this weekend so that will help a little bit. Hopefully we don’t have any highlight reels on the TV. We just want to have a good, clean race, stay out of trouble and be there at the end.”
The team will have to shake out the backup car during qualifying Sunday morning. Watkins Glen is one of the tracks where NASCAR is experimenting with a shorter two-day visit from the Cup series.
"It’s weird not being at the track (Friday)," Said admitted. "I see so many people cruising around on a golf cart or a motorcycle. I cruise around the campsites. I think some races should be three days. Personally I think this should be one of them. It’s going to make it tight on Sunday, but it’s all good."
The 33 car is normally driven by Jeffrey Earnhardt, Dale Jr.’s nephew, but Said’s deal to run the road courses for Circle Sport/TMG came about before Earnhardt joined the team in the offseason. That deal included support from the Genesee Brewery, which is partnering with Said at Watkins Glen for the fourth straight year.
“They’re a great company. Next year is their 140th anniversary. They’re the oldest brewery in America, 139 this year,” Said pointed out. “There’s a chance maybe I’ll do one more, but I’m pretty sure this is it. They’re a great company and all their people are friendly and totally into racing.”
Is Said’s Watkins Glen career missing anything?
He’s got one idea for his finale.
“You never know, maybe we’ll get a rain race to end it. I’d love to see a Cup race in the rain, especially here. It would be awesome for the fans.”