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MOTOR RACING | OTHER RACES

Said Busily Becoming Hottest on Circuit

April 04, 2001|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With two wins in the last three races, Boris Said is the hottest driver in the Trans Am sedan series, but for the Carlsbad resident, the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend will seem almost as if he is taking some time off.

Said may be the busiest driver in racing. His 2001 commitments include the full Trans Am schedule, except the last race, the full American LeMans series with BMW, the nine-race Speedvision World Challenge series for street stock cars, three NASCAR Winston Cup races and one Busch Grand National.

"'I did three in one weekend at Sebring," he said. "We won the Trans Am, finished fourth in the 12 Hours of Sebring in the BMW and broke [the engine] in the World Challenge."

In the Trans Am, the 6-foot-4 Said dominated by being quickest in practice, getting the pole and leading all but half a lap.

"The finish was closer than it should have been because of a late yellow flag. We had a two-lap shootout with Paul Gentilozzi, Johnny Miller and Kenny Wilden. I think Paul had the fastest car but I got a good jump on the restart and then the three guys started racing among themselves and I got away."

When he gets a few days--or hours--off, Said heads for the La Costa golf course when he's home, or any golf course near where he's racing.

"I had a great time in Florida where I played with [PGA Tour player] Mark O'Meara on his home course," Said said. "Mark's helped me get my handicap down to a 7."

Said, who will be in the No. 33 Ford Mustang owned by Mike Lewis of Huntington Beach, has won two of the last three 100-mile Trans Am races, dating back to last fall's race in Las Vegas. He had planned to drive a new Panoz Esperante at Long Beach, but the car will not be ready until the next race at Mosport Park in Canada.

"Long Beach is going to be difficult because I haven't raced there since 1996," he said. "Most of the other guys will be more familiar with the course. It's a tough circuit where you can't make mistakes. The consequences are high because of the walls. The most important thing is to make it to the finish line.

"It'll be nice racing down there, but I'm going to miss the L.A. street race. That track we ran two years ago was one of the best road courses I've ever been on. It's too bad it's gone away."

The L.A. race was dropped from NASCAR's Southwest Series schedule this year after the Ford Dealers Assn. withdrew its sponsorship.

One of Said's closest friends, Brian Simo, is also one of his toughest competitors. Simo, also from Carlsbad, drives a Qvale Mangusta and is the defending Trans Am champion.

"I worked with Brian last year, but no more," said Said. "We're still good friends, but he's the first person I want to beat."

Trans Am practice is Friday, qualifying Saturday and the Johnson Controls 100 on Sunday, after the CART race.

"The champ cars are the warmup race," Said said with a grin.

Former national sailing champion Randy Ruhlman will be in one of the newly designed Chevrolet Corvette C5 race cars.

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The Dayton Indy Lights, CART's top-of-the-line development series, will also race Sunday before the CART main event.

Derek Higgins of Ireland won the season opener in Mexico, defeating last season's rookie of the year, Townsend Bell of San Luis Obispo. All of the last four Indy Lights champions--Scott Dixon, Oriol Servia, Cristiana da Matta and Tony Kanaan--will be driving in the CART race Sunday.

Sandwiched around CART qualifying Saturday will be a Toyota Pro/Celebrity race, featuring entertainment and sports personalities, and the season's first Toyota Atlantic race. Among the Atlantic favorites are Canadian David Rutledge of the Lynx team and Rocky Moran Jr. of Cota de Caza, son of former Indy 500 driver Rocky Moran.

The 25th annual Pro/Celebrity race will be 10 laps with contestants in identically prepared Celicas. Josh Brolin, last year's celebrity winner, will move up to the pro category with former Winston Cup driver Scott Pruett, Goody's Dash champion Robert Huffman and Lynx Racing driver Sara Senske.

Dave Pasant earned a spot in the starting lineup with a high bid of $76,000 at last year's charity ball auction.

Following the final event on the track Saturday, the rock group Third Eye Blind will perform for fans in front of the Terrace Theater at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

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