Former NASCAR great Ernie Irvan will be at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend to coach road racing specialist Boris Said in his superspeedway debut.

The sportscar ace will compete in Saturday's Food World 300 ARCA race as a means of gaining NASCAR's superspeedway approval that will allow him to drive in the 2004 Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.

Said earned his berth in the Bud Shootout - a special race for the previous season's pole winners - when he captured the pole as the hired gun driver for the US Army/MB2 Motorsports team at the June Winston Cup road race at Sears point, and fully intends to be able to take it up. His ride in the ARCA race will be a joint effort between MB2 Motorsports and Ken Schrader Racing, where Said will drive the Ken Schrader-owned #99 USG Sheetrock Brand Pontiac.

Irvan, who retired as a Winston Cup driver due to injuries with 13 races remaining in the 1999 season, joined Said in Talladega at a recent test session.

"No doubt, Boris will be able to handle this," said the veteran, whose career record at Talladega includes two wins and five poles, "He did a good job at the test session, and he knows how to go fast. But I did tell him that it doesn't matter how fast you go - the most important thing is to get approved for Daytona.

"I explained to him that he can't get over-anxious and try to set the world on fire. It's all about getting approved for Daytona. Sometimes patience is the hardest thing to learn and the easiest thing to forget."

Said, who raced for Irvan in the Craftsman Truck Series in 1997 and 1998 and also for two Winston Cup races in 1999 - at Watkins Glen and Homestead - said he felts fortunate to have the oval ace as his coach.

"Ernie and I have built a solid relationship over the years," Said offered, "He gave me sound advice at the test session and I am sure counting on him for this weekend. This is not going to be easy - I've never drafted before or driven in a restrictor plate race.

"It would be a lofty goal to go in there and think our Pontiac could be a contender and kick everybody's butt. I might take to superspeedway racing like a duck to water - or I could really struggle. I don't know, that's why I'm bringing a coach. And I am lucky to have Ernie, he had a super record at the big tracks."

Said feels that, having Ernie and his close friends at MB2 helping him out, the learning curve will be shortened.

"Coming in cold with a race team I hadn't worked with would make it difficult," he explained, "But I have known the people at MB2 for a while - they are my friends. [General manager] Jay Frye and [crew chief] Ryan Pemberton have been there for me in the past and I hope I can do the job for them.

"Speaking of friends, I am also thankful to Ken Schrader for his help, and to USG Sheetrock for its sponsorship support. Dale [Earnhardt] Jr has also offered advice and that's really cool, since he's been the dominant driver recently at Talladega.

"I really want the shot at driving in the Bud Shootout in Daytona. That would be a dream come true. To be truthful, winning the pole in Sonoma still hasn't sunk in."

While his main focus will be on how well Said adapts to the 2.66-mile oval, Irvan said he is also looking forward to meeting old friends and getting back into the racing mix.

"When I was at the test session with Boris, it was like a homecoming for me," said the man whose Winston Cup career record included 15 wins and 22 poles, "I not only got to mingle with security and medical people who I got to know through my accidents, but the laid-back atmosphere of a test session also enabled me to talk to crew members on this team and other teams.

"It was sure fun to rekindle some of my old relationships. If time permits, I hope to do more of the same during race weekend."

 

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