LOUDON, N.H. – The NASCAR gods might have owed Boris Said this one.
A couple months back, Said seemingly was just minutes away from putting his self-owned car on the Pepsi 400 pole at Daytona. Then the rains came, cutting qualifying short, erasing the times of all who had made qualifying laps and leaving the field to be set by owner points.
That sent Said, running a part-time schedule, home for the weekend.
Fast forward a month or so and Said found himself at one of his bread-and-butter tracks, the road course at Watkins Glen. But enter the rain, again, which erased any attempt to qualify and left Said and his team on the outside looking in – though he did get a ride with another team that weekend – at a track he expects to compete for wins each time he hits it.
"We've shown performance every time we've gone, but the problem right now, (running) an independent team, it's almost impossible (to get it off the ground)," Said told NASCAR's Web site after the Watkins Glen rainout. "Right now, it's just depressing."
But Said had reason to smile here at New Hampshire on Friday.
Driving this weekend not for his own team, but rather in a fourth car for Ray Evernham, Said fell one spot short of making the grid for Sunday's Sylvania 300. But John Andretti's No. 49 car failed post-qualifying inspection and was booted from the field, allowing Said to backdoor his way into the race.
"We will take it," Said said. "(It was) payback for missing Daytona and not being able to qualify my own car at Watkins Glen. … Considering what happened to me (there), I guess what comes around goes around."
Said, with his road racing background, excels at Watkins Glen and Sonoma, and heâ€™s also proved his mettle on superspeedways the last couple of seasons. (He finished fourth at last yearâ€™s Pepsi 400 at Daytona after sitting on the pole.) But driving a stock car on a shorter track like Loudon presents a different challenge.
NASCAR's testing restrictions prevent teams from testing at most Cup tracks, including New Hampshire. Also, any non-sanctioned tests at venues that don't host Cup races can't be performed with the same Goodyear tires used on race weekends.
These restrictions make it tough enough for established teams to gather the data necessary to improve their setups, but they make it downright impossible for owner/drivers like Said, who are just trying to get their own teams off the ground.
Even though Said isn't running his own car this weekend, those same rules – which are designed to level the playing field among Nextel Cup teams – also make it increasingly difficult for drivers to become more familiar with tracks at which they aren't particularly comfortable – which describes Said in a stock car on this flat one-mile oval.
"It's an uphill battle," he said.
Enough of one, in fact, to temper Said's expectations for the weekend.
" It's a lot of fun driving even if it's only for (Friday), but I feel like if I could just get a little more time in the car I could figure it out," Said said after his qualifying lap, not knowing at the time whether it would be good enough to put him in the field. "I think I just need a few more laps.
And for a while, it did look like Said's stay at New Hampshire would be brief, as Evernham teammate Scott Riggs knocked Said out of the field late in Friday's qualifying session.
"I found out I missed by (.067) seconds … and I felt OK about it (because it was a solid lap)," said Said, who added that he didn't want to hope Riggs would miss the field, as Riggs had helped him in practice earlier in the day. "So I thought, 'maybe someone will miss it on tech.' "
And that's exactly what happened to Andretti and the No. 49 team.
Said will start last (save for drivers being sent to the back of the field for engine changes and other modifications) Sunday at Loudon, where he has made two career starts in the Craftsman Truck Series. (He finished fourth here back in 1997.)
After New Hampshire, Said has plans for his own team to make one more start this season, running at Talladega Superspeedway next month.
For next year, Said's team has secured backing for six races. While heâ€™s happy to have that commitment so early, Said is hoping for more deals to come together.
"A lot of people (are) kicking the tires," Said said. "Maybe something will happen."
Just like something happened in Said's favor, for a change, on a qualifying day at the track.
"I'm still learning this track," he said, "but it feels great to be one of the 43 drivers racing on Sunday."
- Watkins Glen
- New Hampshire