Boris Said knows the odds aren't in his favour at the Budweiser Shootout this weekend - even with coaching help from two superspeedway experts - but that doesn't mean the road racer isn't looking for success on Saturday night.

In his maiden superspeedway race in a NASCAR Cup car, Said realises that he is firmly among the underdogs for outright victory, and he is setting himself achievable targets.

"I know where I stand and know what I'm up against," he said, "My goal is to be respectable, stay in the lead draft and finish the race."

Said will drive the #01 US Army/MB2 Chevrolet in the 70-lap event, which is traditionally run for the 2003 pole winners and former Shootout champions. He earned his invitation to the non-point scoring season opener as a result of winning the pole in the Army car as a substitute driver for the injured Jerry Nadeau at Sears Point.

Coaching Said for his superspeedway Cup debut will be former NASCAR great Ernie Irvan while, in a gesture of reciprocity, Dale Earnhardt Jr - who Said has tutored on road courses - has offered his expert advice on restrictor-plate racing.

"Both Ernie and Dale Jr have been giving me excellent instruction," Said explained, "Those are two of the best superspeedway racers around, and I am both fortunate and grateful for their support. I am also fortunate to be working with the talented Army crew led by [crew chief] Ryan Pemberton."

Irvan, a four-time superspeedway winner - including the 1991 Daytona 500 - said his pupil has the talent to do well, but did caution that Said needs to exercise patience on the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

"Boris has the talent - he's a natural-born racer and I think he will do a good job," said Irvan, who retired as a NASCAR Cup driver due to injuries with 13 races remaining in the 1999 season, "But this will be a totally different experience for him. He can't be too cautious because if he is, he will be riding by himself on the big track. On the other hand, he can't be overly aggressive and take chances. He's got to play it smart."

Said calls the opportunity to race in the Budweiser Shootout as his greatest racing highlight.

"It just doesn't get any better than this -- to compete against the best drivers in the world on NASCAR's biggest stage," the 41-year old admitted, "This is the most exciting time of my racing career and I want to thank [MB2 general manger] Jay Frye for giving me the opportunity."

Said's only previous experiences on a superspeedway came at last month's test session in Daytona and at last autumn's ARCA race at Talladega.

"Had I not got caught up in an accident at Talladega, I would have had a good finish in the ARCA race," he noted, "Restrictor-plate racing was different at first, but the more I got into it, I really liked it."

Said has competed in ten career NASCAR Cup races, of which nine were on road courses. His only oval race came in 1999, while driving an Irvan-owned car at Homestead. In the nine Cup road races, he has had two top-ten finishes, with sixth at Sonoma in 2003 and eighth in Watkins Glen in 2001.

 

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