Boris Said drives the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Corvette in the Rolex Series GT class, which this weekend will be racing in the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle.
Q. Could you tell us what role the Detroit Grand Prix has played in your career?
BORIS SAID: Basically, it started my career in racing, because I never watched car racing on TV. I never had any interest in doing it. And I was a motorcycle dealer at the time. A friend of mine who owned a Ford dealership gave me a trip to the Detroit Grand Prix, and from that trip I ended up meeting Bob Sharp and I saw Formula 1 cars on the track. I decided I wanted to go by a Formula 1 car. That's the only thing I was thinking about, how cool it was, and I was completely addicted being there 10 minutes.
Of course, I didn't go out and buy a Formula 1 car. Bob Sharp talked some sense into me about going to Skip Barber and buying a stock car and starting off there. But from that point being there it was just in my – that's all I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And it's pretty much 26, 27 years ago now.
Q. You raced in NASCAR some. How much has of that carries over to racing in the Grand-Am series?
BORIS SAID: NASCAR is a different animal. I mean, it feels almost like a different discipline altogether. Like golf and tennis – they're two separate things.
I mean, driving a car on the edge, that feel you get through your butt is the same. But driving one of those big, heavy cars with all that horsepower is a completely different discipline than driving a Corvette, a lot of grip.
But then saying that, racing's racing. When you're competing and on the track with racing wheel to wheel, I mean, some of that is the same. But it feels like it's as different as golf and tennis to me.
Q. Which of the racing series you've run was the most challenging to adapt to and why?
BORIS SAID: That's a tough question. I've run so many. But racing NASCAR was probably the toughest because I never ran any ovals growing up. Everything I did was sports car racing. So when you step out of your backyard and step out of something as different as stock cars and then to go up against the level of competition stock cars have, that's the biggest thing about NASCAR, is just how deep the field is and how hard it is to even make the races much less try to compete for a win. So that's definitely been the toughest test of my racing career.
Q. This being Grand-Am's first street course race since I believe 2006, when it ran at Long Beach, what are you expecting from your competitors temperament-wise?
BORIS SAID: The one thing is Grand-Am is a lot like NASCAR – you have a lot of temperament in the beginning of the race, but the last 20 minutes or half hour, if you've seen any of these races, I mean, it's kind of like you pull the pin on a hand grenade and put it in a Doberman Pinscher's mouth, it's going to be a street fight.
There's going to be action. There's going to be passing. A lot more passing than you'll see with Indy cars, and it will be some aggressive driving. So I think the tempers will be controlled until that last 20-minute run to the checker.
Q. The last race at New Jersey there was a little bit more door-to-door banging between the DPs and GTs, are you a little more concerned there being no run-off area here at Detroit?
BORIS SAID: No, street races are tough. But the track in New Jersey is a really tough track to pass on for some reason, just the way the circuit is.
And the DPs and the GT cars were closer in time than at most tracks. But in saying that, I mean street courses are just tough because there is no run-off and one little mistake you're in the concrete, and the concrete always wins.
It's definitely going to have to be a game of give and take between the GT cars and the DP cars. But for the most part we get along pretty good. And the good guys there, you know, give the GT cars room when they're racing and we give them room when we see them racing. So I think it will be OK.
Q. Talk a little bit about your experiences racing at Detroit, and I know you ran there in Trans-Am a couple of times. Iis there anything you take from those past experiences to this weekend's event?
BORIS SAID: Street races in general are a little different discipline, again, like a normal race, like when we go to Mid-Ohio or New Jersey or Barber. We go out on the track first on Friday. So the track's going to be really green.
So you really have to be patient and the change you do to the car and how much aggression -- how much you attack the racetrack, because the track will keep getting better and better and better and rubber end, the fastest laps will be probably at the end of the race. You've got to keep your emotions in control so you don't make a mistake and put it in the barriers. That's the biggest thing. A street race, to be fast, you gotta have a lot of confidence and you can't make any mistakes.
And Detroit, as I remember from Trans-Am, it's a pretty tough track. It's really technical. To be fast, you've got to really, really trust yourself and run close to the walls and be in the gas before you can even see the exit.
And there's a lot of camber bits in the past. I don't know if it will be the same. But there's good places to pass. And I'm expecting a really good race. I'm looking at the weather and I'm more concerned about the rain more than the track. I think the rain will even throw another monkey wrench in the equation and make it even tougher.
Q. The DP field seems to dwindle as each year goes by. And I'm wondering whether that's just the effects of the economy or whether there's something else going on there. What are your thoughts on that?
BORIS SAID: I think it's the effects of the economy. Everywhere in America everything is shrinking, whether you go to any sporting event, any race series right now. Corporate America's struggling. So hopefully, this year being an election year and hopefully we'll get some new government in there that can do its job. I'm sure America is going to come back sooner rather than later and when it does, racing will come back, Grand-Am will come back.
You look at the lower ranks of Grand-Am and Continental Challenge, we have 70 cars every weekend. And that's a great series. So as you get up to the higher levels it costs more money and money is scarce. So I think Grand-Am's done an unbelievable job making equal cars that are affordable and having good racing compared to some of the other road race series, America Le Mans where you go there and they have three P1 cars, that's not a race. That's testing with champagne at the end of the day.
So I think Grand-Am has a really good formula, and I think once the economy comes back it's going to thrive even more.
Q. Whenever I have NASCAR fans complain to me about how they don't like the racing because the cars all look the same, and it's like IROC and they long for the good old days when they had stock cars. I always tell them if that's the kind of racing they like, if they really like stock cars they ought this check out the Continental Tire Series and most of them have never heard of it. Do you think it would be good for Grand-Am and for NASCAR in general to promote that series as a more of a true stock car series?
BORIS SAID: I'm not really sure on the business of it. But if that series was brought in front of the masses, I mean, it's exciting. You're going to see cars that you can identify with, because they're pretty much street cars. You're going to see aggressive driving. You're going to see a lot of crashes and a lot of passing.
So it's an exciting series. And I think it's one of the best kept secrets in racing. A lot of guys you've never heard of. Young up-and-coming Americans trying to make a name for themselves in road racing and there's a lot of talent in the Continental Challenge Series. I think Grand-Am has a pretty good ladder system to make it in auto racing right now.
But, yeah, I think it would be cool if the Continental Challenge Series could run at Watkins Glen on a Cup weekend. Logistically it's a problem because there's so many cars, but that's what I would like to see.
Q. Staying with the Continental theme for a second, BMW has had a lot of success the last couple of years, but this year they've been pegged back a little bit by Grand-Am. So much so even some of the teams have gone to a different brand. Is that a concern for you and the Turner guys, or is it a little fun you guys are having before you get back to it?
BORIS SAID: Grand-Am is a tough job when you have so many different kinds of cars, different makes, to try to make them all equal. Somebody's always going to be whining and crying.
BMW can't win every year. And they've been dominant the last couple of years. Mostly because I think just the quality of the teams and the drivers that are in them. But I think it will all come around. I mean, right now it looks like Porsche has a little advantage. Some tracks it won't. But Grand-Am's good about making adjustments and getting it equal. So they're not too quick to react.
They don't make knee-jerk decisions, but they'll always do the right thing and they're always trying to make it like NASCAR where everyone has a equal playing field. We're not too concerned about it. We'll whine about it like everybody else. But I'm sure it will get better as the year goes on.
Q. With rain in the forecast this weekend and three races in the next few weeks, how much is that a concern from the cockpit side to make sure you don't tear up the cars because of the natural wear and tear that's going to go through on the cars and the crew as well over this month of June?
BORIS SAID: As a driver, you can't really think about it. You have to think of each race as the last race you'll ever run. We've got to think about the best job we can do to try to get the best finish we can. And worrying about crashing isn't one of them.
Being patient on the street course is definitely a concern, because in my history of street racing, there's always a lot of cautions. There's always a lot of carnage, and Ernie Irvan told me you need to race the racetrack and you need to be there at the end and I don't think there's a truer statement for a street course. So we'll watch our Ps and Qs but at the end of the race we're going to run it like it's the last time we're ever going to get to drive a car.
Q. How competitive do you expect Whelen's Corvette that you co-drive with Eric Curran this weekend, given the state of the GT class with Ferrari coming in with two straight victories?
BORIS SAID: Yeah, I look at that Ferrari and I think it's one of the best-looking cars ever going down pit lane. When I look at how expensive it is, it should be faster. I think they probably have an advantage right now, but they're new to the series, just like the Continental Challenge I'm sure that Grand-Am will probably have some adjustments to that car if they keep winning races.
But in saying that, I think our Whelen Corvette has been pretty competitive at every racetrack. We've had some problems, some our own doing and some just bad luck, I think -- I expect to be competitive at Detroit.