A Road to Racing Less Traveled
by Bobby Markos
A career in auto racing is something most drivers begin preparing for at an early age. They find their way behind the wheel of entry-level machines like go-karts and learn the rudimentary principles of the sport, oftentimes while learning arithmetic and spelling in grade school. But, there are some racers who follow an off-kilter path to the driver’s seat, some of which are so astonishing that they create a legend and reputation before the driver ever takes their first checkered flag. That is the case when it comes to Boris Said. Known as being a “road racing ringer” in the NASCAR ranks, Said has a sprawling resume of international motorsports experience, including a Rolex Sports Car Series GT Championship and a couple victories in the famed 24-Hours of Daytona. On paper, Said’s stat-sheet mirrors that of classically trained wheelmen, but his avenue to those accomplishments was everything but conventional.
It’s often been said that the Dale Jr Download is a platform for Dale Earnhardt Jr to not only learn about figures he finds interesting, but to reconnect with friends and bring new light to old tales. On this week’s episode, Dale got two for the price of one as he invited his longtime friend and racing mentor Boris Said into the Bojangles Studio. The two had a lot to catch up on, but their conversation also uncovered a few extraordinary details of Said’s journey to the heart of auto racing.
Dale and co-host Mike Davis began by asking Said about his origins. Said has long been known as a California-talent, but his roots are actually in New York and Connecticut. After his parents divorced at an early age, Said moved with his mother to live with his grandparents. An introspective moment came early in the chat, when Dale and Boris related on their relationships with their fathers after their respective childhood divorces. Boris rarely saw his father throughout his life, and didn’t reconnect with him for decades. Dale disclosed that when he and his sister went to live with their mother initially, there was a period of time where he didn’t see much of Dale Sr, a frustration he would carry with him as he grew up. Said recalled seeing a documentary film on television that his father had produced years later, and re-meeting him in California as an adult.
Both of Said’s parents had racing experience; his mother raced sports cars in the 1950s and his father Boris (better known as Bob Said) even raced in Formula 1 and NASCAR, but this was lost on young Boris. Instead of following that trajectory, Boris fell in with a rough crowd in New England and began participating in theft rings and even stealing cars. He would eventually get caught and have to participate in a scared straight program at Rikers Island. But Said instead credits getting his life on track to a job he began working at a motorcycle garage. He explained that the tough crew at the shop worked hard and expected a lot of him, which improved his attitude and work ethic. Soon he became an entrepreneur and opened his first businesses.
In a roundabout way, it was these pursuits that led to Said finding a career behind the wheel. While getting established, he accompanied an investment partner to a Formula 1 Grand Prix, and he fell in love with the sport. In the blink of an eye, he was attending Skip Barber Racing School and turning his first laps. He explained he was very aggressive behind the wheel, driving the car almost like a dirt bike, skidding through turns and wearing the tires out. When he told his instructor that he wanted to become a race driver, the instructor ironically told him he was “too old and had no talent”. Oh, to see that instructor’s face now.
As his career in racing progressed, so did the hilarious manner in which it all unfolded. Upon buying his first race car, he attended a race at Pocono, eager to compete. After testing, a fellow attendee told Boris, “you need to buy racing tires”, to which he replied, “What do you mean? The cars got tires already”. A year later, he won a championship; it was truly in his blood to be a racing success story.
Boris recalls “conning” his way into SCCA races by lying on the entry forms, claiming to have a lot more professional experience than he actually did at the time. While entering his first endurance race, the Grand Prix of Atlanta, he lied about having a co-driver, which was a mandatory requirement. He even went as far as to change his own tires, but got black-flagged when it was discovered that his co-driver never actually entered the competition. He pleaded with officials to let him finish the race, and they eventually relented. He shortly after went on to compete in an endurance race at Sebring in the same fashion.
In the early 90s, Boris relocated to California to live and work with his friends Mark and Brian Simo who were starting the No Fear lifestyle clothing brand. While there, his life began moving at a rapid pace. At one point he raced for a German-team in Belgium and met Michael Schumacher. He got a couple big rides in IMSA, and by the time he found his way into NASCAR in the mid-90s, he was known as a mainstay in the American road racing scene. He was being asked by established teams like the Wood Brothers to help drivers with their road course racing technique. It was during this time that his introduction to the Earnhardt family was made.
During a closed NASCAR test, Dale Sr once asked Boris to practice the famed #3, as it was lacking in handling for right and left turns. After taking a few laps, he accompanied Dale into his race hauler and told him what changes to make. The two would end up hanging out and Boris even worked up the nerve to jokingly ask Sr for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with the crust cut off, mind you. He must have made quite an impression on the Intimidator, because years later Boris was asked to help get Dale Jr up to speed on the road course circuit. The two hit it off immediately, and have been friends ever since.
In fact, Boris played a role in one of Dale’s scariest on track incidents, his July 2004 Corvette crash at Sonoma that left him with second and third degree burns all over his face, neck and legs. Dale and Said were teamed up to race in the American Le Mans Series Grand Prix race during an off-weekend from the Cup Series, and during a warm-up lap, the car spun out, sending Dale into a concrete barrier. The car had been reconstructed during the night, and the crash caused a fuel line to rupture, engulfing the entire car in flames in seconds. Dale walked listeners through his thought process, which went from regret of not being able to compete in the race with Boris, to realizing he was in trouble and needing to get out. He described the pain the burns caused and his recollection of blacking out and waking up in the in-field care center.
Boris responded with his recollection of the incident, where he watched the fire on the monitor on pit road and immediately sprinted over to the in-field care center. He recalled trying to help Dale through his pain and keep him calm, and collecting his burnt fire suit and personal items after he had been taken to the hospital. This episode is the first time the two have had the chance to speak about the incident, and listeners will appreciate both perspectives and how they paint a full picture of the infamous wreck.
Dale was also eager to know more about Boris’ famous run-ins with Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart, to which he gladly indulged. He recounts having his son with him during the post-race interview after the incident with Biffle, and having to refrain from swearing. He also recalls a humorous airport run-in with Stewart after their dust-up. Boris concludes the interview by talking about how he feels alive behind the wheel, and while he may be a successful businessman, it doesn’t change that he’d always rather be racing. These days Boris has a hand in many businesses, including K1 Speed kart tracks and car dealerships that he co-owns with Rick Hendrick. He also mentors his son Boris and his blossoming racing career. He revealed that he’d like to stay sharp behind the wheel to hopefully run the 24-Hours of Daytona with his son in the coming years.
During the opening of the episode, Dale and Mike rehash Dale’s trip to Los Angeles to cover the Super Bowl. Dale also talks about his Valentines day gifts to Amy and his daughters. When the Dirty Mo Crew opened it up to YouTube for Ask Jr, listeners sent in questions about the Spring Martinsville race’s new length, Dale’s favorite Winter Olympic event and his favorite piece of memorabilia in the NASCAR Hall of Fame exhibit. You can hear all of this and more on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr Download - available on this website and all major podcast platforms.