Record run lands Said a rare WCpole

Saturday, June 21, 2003

SONOMA, Calif. -- Boris Said was living his dream Friday after winning the pole for the Dodge/Save Mart 350.

Said, one of five road racing specialists brought in by Winston Cup teams for Sunday's race at Infineon Raceway -- one of only two road courses on the circuit -- celebrated joyously after setting a track record on the 1.949-mile, 11-turn course.

"Never would I have thought in my wildest dreams I'd win one of these poles," he said after high-fiving every member of his crew and hugging several of them. The Cup regulars "usually come up big at the end."

He said being hired only for an occasional Cup race is not an advantage.

"It is a disadvantage because you're not working with the team," Said explained. "In the past, I came here with a team that put me in a second car and threw together a crew.

"This is different. This is an established team, and it's the best equipment I've ever had for a Winston Cup race."

Said, a BMW M3 sports car driver in the SCCA Pro Racing Speed GT Championship, is subbing for Jerry Nadeau, recovering from injuries he received in a crash in April.

Easily the top time

His lap of 93.620 mph was easily good enough to knock Robby Gordon's 93.262 off the top spot and break the track qualifying record of 93.476, set last year by Tony Stewart.

"We came here today to get on the pole and we let it slip away," said Gordon, a full-time Cup driver with Richard Childress Racing and a former winner in the CART series.

Gordon, who finished second here in 2001, will start the race with another of the "hired guns" close behind his Chevrolet. Canadian Ron Fellows was on top of the qualifying with a lap of 93.073 until Gordon took his turn.

"I think they shouldn't be here because I'd have been on the pole by five-tenths (of a second) if they weren't," Gordon joked. "Actually, both of them are really good race drivers and they should be able to come here and race with us."

This will be Said's seventh Winston Cup road race since 1999. His best previous qualifying effort was in Watkins Glen, N.Y., that first year when he started second. Said's best finish was eighth in 2001 at the New York track. His best finish here was 11th, also in 2001.

A year ago, Said, driving a second car for Jasper Racing, qualified 10th and was running near the front until an accident on lap 82nd of 110 laps ended his race and left him 41st in the 43-car field.

This is going to be a really busy weekend for Said, who also will also race in Saturday's Southwest Tour stock car race and the Trans-Am race that will follow the Cup event Sunday.

"I'm going to qualify my Southwest Tour car now and then practice in my Trans-Am car," Said noted, smiling. "It's all downhill from here."

Series points leader Matt Kenseth and Roush Racing teammate Kurt Busch, coming off a victory last Sunday in Michigan, ran identical laps of 92.879. Kenseth will start fourth by virtue of being higher in the standings.

Kevin Harvick, Gordon's RCR teammate, was next 92.840, followed by Rusty Wallace at 92.822, three-time Infineon winner Jeff Gordon at 92.800, defending race winner Ricky Rudd at 92.732 and Stewart at 92.666.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., second in the series standings, was 11th at 92.541.

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