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Track Smack: Road rage and a ringers place on the Sprint Cup tour

August 18, 2011, , NASCAR.com

Debating a road specialist's place on the Sprint Cup tour, wild times at Montreal

1. Some drivers, most notably Greg Biffle, were critical of Boris Said for the way the road-course specialist drove Monday at Watkins Glen. Did they have a legitimate complaint?

Joe Menzer: Well, he appeared to run Biff off the road early in the race and he definitely got into David Ragan and caused the big, horrific wreck at the end. I really like Boris, but those appear to be the facts. So yes, Biffle had a complaint. I'm just not sure he handled it the right way afterward -- or if Boris did, either.

Bill Kimm: Absolutely. This isn't the first time there have been complaints against ol' Boris, so there is something to this. Boris is too aggressive in the way he tries to prove himself out there, and it has to stop. These road-course ringers are visitors, and they need to start acting like it.

David Caraviello: This is a tough one, and I think it has as much to do with the schism between full-time and part-time drivers as much as it does anything else. No question, Boris and Greg were upset afterward over the way they raced one another, no question some others took shots at Said for his involvement in that big last-lap crash. But let's be honest -- full-time, part-time, or not, this stuff happens at every road race. It's the nature of the beast as much as it is anything else.

Joe Menzer: So what are you suggesting, Bill? That the road-course ringers just get out of the way of the guys who are running for points?

Bill Kimm: From the complaints the past couple of years, it sounds like Boris is the one doing the roughing up. I'm not saying just get out of the way -- quit taking others out just because you can, because he is all out for the win and doesn't care about points.

Joe Menzer: Let me also clarify that while neither driver may have handled it right immediately after the race, it certainly was highly entertaining. I would rate Boris' post-race sound clip about on par with Jim Mora's playoff speech following a Saints-Panthers NFL game years ago. It will go on to live in infamy.

Bill Kimm: The fact they played Boris' interview on MSNBC the next morning tells you all you need to know about how awesome that post-race interview was.

Said goes off


Boris Said had plenty of choice words and threats for Greg Biffle following the race at Watkins Glen.

David Caraviello: I will admit, I missed the confrontation; I was dealing with the real story out of Monday, which was all the guys who limped into the care center after taking big hits. But guys, look at the way Jeff Gordon raced people at Sonoma two years ago. Look at the stuff Juan Montoya has been involved with in road-course racing. Those are two of the best, and they're as uber-aggressive as anyone else on serpentine layouts. I'm not saying Boris didn't play a role here, but goodness -- road racing has become cutthroat. That's the way guys compete there now. Cars are always flying everywhere, whether Said is involved or not.

Joe Menzer: The best comments of the day on the whole situation may have come after the race from winner Marcos Ambrose. He more or less defended Boris, but said the deal is that it's tough for guys to know how to race someone who only shows up a couple of times a year. He's a wild-card factor, so to speak. Then again, so are Ron Fellows and others -- and no one was complaining about them. Boris definitely did make some mistakes Monday.

David Caraviello: Boris' part-time status makes him an easy target, because let's be honest -- everybody roughs everybody up on road courses. They're the new short tracks. That's just the way it is. Had Boris Said not been in that race, you still would have had plenty of guys taken out, and plenty of guys upset at one another. Didn't Martin Truex Jr. threaten revenge on Gordon after the Sonoma race last season? And we're talking about a four-time champion. If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.

Bill Kimm: David, you're absolutely right, it does make Said a target. But don't you think he needs to respect the fact that he isn't a Cup driver? I don't see Carl Edwards or Kyle Busch just taking people out in the Nationwide or Truck races ... what makes it OK for Boris to do it in the Cup Series?

David Caraviello: First of all, is he just taking people out? Is he going Dale Earnhardt on Terry Labonte at Bristol? Or is he driving aggressively like so many others? I think there's a difference. If he's going around punting people, that's one thing. If he's driving like his hair is on fire and getting a little rough sometimes -- well, welcome to road racing in the Cup Series. I'm not trying to defend the guy; it sounds like David Ragan especially had a legitimate complaint. But we're dealing with a manner of racing that's gotten a little crazy, and everybody plays a part in it.

Bill Kimm: That's the complaint, David, that he is too aggressive and shoving people out of the way. So yes, he is taking people out.

Joe Menzer: No one said it was OK, and he definitely did not do it intentionally. He just was aggressively going for the same ground as some of those guys and got too aggressive. He made some mistakes; so have others. And wow -- if Boris Said's hair is on fire, we're all in big trouble! If Bill Kimm's hair were to catch fire, not so much.

Bill Kimm: Ain't that the truth -- although my tirade on Green-White-Checkered might have his ears smokin' a little.

Joe Menzer: You better watch it, Bill Kimm, Boris might start asking around to have your address texted to him. If you show up to work with a black eye soon, we'll all know what happened.

* Biffle, Said make amends over the phone | Race Hub: Biffle has his say on Said | Said responds

David Caraviello: Fun fact about Boris Said: Every Tuesday, he wakes up and logs on to NASCAR.COM to see what Bill Kimm has said about him. And every Wednesday, he puts on his vigilante costume and goes out to kick butt! But regardless of who was right or wrong on the race track, Boris clearly won the PR battle afterward. That diatribe was epic, and Biffle's response on Twitter the next day seemed weak by comparison, Glad to see they've talked and everything appears OK between them now, but if you're involved in something like that, you can't let the other guy call you out that ferociously and wait almost a day to respond.

Joe Menzer: Agreed on that point. I'm still waiting for Bill Kimm to comment on my verbal shot about his (lack of) hair.

David Caraviello: That's personal! Bill is coming to your house Friday and looking for you!

Marcos Ambrose won his first career Cup Series race at Watkins Glen in his 105th start.

2. With his victory at Watkins Glen, Marcos Ambrose became the 15th different winner this year, and fifth first-time winner on the Sprint Cup tour. Will either of those marks be extended this weekend with the circuit travels to Michigan?

Joe Menzer: I'm going to say no. I think one of the Roush Fenway guys jumps up and wins, and I think I'm going to go with Carl Edwards. But seeing a different winner in Victory Lane definitely could happen -- for instance, Biffle doesn't have a win yet, and will be a factor. A lot of folks are going to jump on the Dale Earnhardt Jr. bandwagon since it's the last place he won. But I'll take Edwards.

Bill Kimm: Absolutely not. Michigan is not a track that typically provides random winners. The best drivers in the best equipment usually win there, so I expect more of the same this weekend.

David Caraviello: Let's be honest, guys -- we're running out of first-time winner candidates, unless something really shocking happens. Guys like Ambrose, Regan Smith and Paul Menard were always our standard dark horses, and they're all off the list now. We're left with A.J. Allmendinger, who of course is capable anywhere, but I don't know if a track like Michigan best suits him. You remove A.J. from the conversation, and you have to go all the way down to David Gilliland -- in 30th place -- to find another driver in the points standings who has yet to win a race.

Joe Menzer: Oh, and don't forget Matt Kenseth is a beast at Michigan. He's another Roush Fenway guy who will be in the mix for sure. I don't know if we're done with new winners for the year. I still think Stewart will win at least once somewhere. Probably Biffle, too. But I'm going to say not this weekend.

Bill Kimm: Yeah, David, that list is definitely much smaller now. And that's not a bad thing. I guess the 15 different winners streak could continue, given that guys like Smoke and Biffle are still looking for their first victory of the season. But I think we are done with first-time winners this season. By the way, you guys realize that Roush hasn't won at Michigan since 2008? They used to dominate there, but its been a while. Plus, the Roush camp hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire recently.

David Caraviello: Those Tommy Baldwin and Front Row cars have proven on occasion they can hang in there with the big boys, so maybe -- if every condition is right -- somebody like Dave Blaney or Gilliland could shock the world. But the percentages there are very, very slim. Much lower than even a win for Trevor Bayne, given that his victory came on a plate track and essentially in Roush equipment. Hey, who knows what might happen at Talladega in October. Phoenix Racing has won there in the past. But as for first-timers ... I think we're done, boys.

Bill Kimm: This has been a season to remember, no doubt.

Joe Menzer: And Bill, while Roush Fenway hasn't won there since 2008, they're always very competitive at the place. Take the aforementioned Kenseth, for instance. He has two career victories and eight top-five finishes in the past 13 races there. He'll definitely be a factor Sunday -- or Monday, or Tuesday, or whenever they run the race.

Bill Kimm: Joe ... no rain talk! I'm still trying to get caught up from Monday's race.

Joe Menzer: I haven't checked the weather yet. But Rain Man Mark Aumann is covering for NASCAR.COM so I'm thinking it doesn't matter what the radar says. It could be Watkins Glen all over again.

Michigan


Our experts pick the studs and duds for this week.

Bill Kimm: Didn't we run a Michigan race on a Tuesday here recently? That would make for a fun weekend.

Joe Menzer: I believe Caraviello and Rain Man were at that race, right?

David Caraviello: Yes. You guys are bringing back bad memories. Those seven rainy, foggy days in the Irish Hills will haunt me forever. Now, though, I'm beginning to wonder if Bill ate the three-day-old lobster sandwich that was in Menzer's hotel fridge at Watkins Glen. No random winners at a fuel-mileage track like Michigan? That's entirely possible. And never shortchange Roush there. Yes, they're not the sure thing there they once were, but still -- don't count them out. If Biffle is going to win anywhere among the remaining regular-season tracks, this is going to be it. And Kenseth and Edwards are absolutely capable of winning there.

Bill Kimm: Totally off subject ... but who puts lobster on bread and calls that a good idea? Back to the question at hand, my very large gut tells me Denny Hamlin could pull off the repeat this weekend. This is a team in desperate need of a victory, and the No. 11 knows how to win in the Irish Hills.

Joe Menzer: Bill, you need to get out more. The lobster roll sandwich is a summer staple in the Northeast. And the Irish Hills are lovely. Plus, you get to stay in Ann Arbor. I'm an Ohio guy, and even I'll admit that's a great place.

Bill Kimm: Is Track Smack putting an end to the centuries-old Ohio vs. Michigan feud? If only we could do the same for Boris and Biffle.

Joe Menzer: Or for Menzer vs. Kimm.

* Ambrose adds to short list of international winners

3. The Nationwide tour makes its return to Montreal, where some crazy things have happened in the past. What might be in store this year? And who among the Canadian drivers will be a factor in the outcome?

Joe Menzer: Ah, Montreal. I wonder what kind of food is famous up there. I've never been, but I'm sure our colleague Dave Rodman will fill us in later. You can bet Rodman and Adam Richman know all about the lobster roll, that's for sure. But I digress. Here is a name for you to remember for this weekend's race in Montreal: Andrew Ranger.

Bill Kimm: Looking at the forecast, it appears rain tires could be happening again, so that will be interesting. As for Canadian drivers, Ron Fellows was impressive at the Glen, so he should be up front again. And Marcos Ambrose isn't Canadian, but he is putting all his eggs in the Montreal pot ... so he will be a major factor.

Nationwide Spotlight


Even though Alex Tagliani, a native of Montreal, will be driving on his hometown track, he realizes Nationwide regulars have the edge because they know the cars better than he does.

David Caraviello: There goes Joe, dropping Adam Richman's name again, hoping to get his "Menz vs. Food" TV show idea on the air. OK, let me say right off -- I love this race. It's fun to watch, the Canadian fans are passionate, and for the drivers from that area, it's like the Stanley Cup Finals and the Daytona 500 rolled into one. It pains me that they're having financial issues up there and this may be the last time the Nationwide Series visits Montreal. Somebody needs to figure this out. This isn't Mexico City, where the attendance fell off a cliff after a few years. This thing works, and all involved need to find a way to keep it alive.

Bill Kimm: I think Joe is Andrew Ranger's PR person. This isn't the first time he's mentioned him with me in Smack, and I don't Smack very often.

David Caraviello: Joe, wasn't Montreal Andrew Ranger's coming-out party a few years back? I think that's where he ran up front against Carl Edwards, and Carl touted him as the next up-and-comer. Ranger will certainly be in his element, but when it comes to the drivers from the area, it all starts and ends with Jacques Villeneuve. He's been in the running there before, and he can win there. The locals would be beside himself if he won at the race on a track named for his father. It would be an incredible sight.

Joe Menzer: I just double-checked the entry list and see Ranger is in car No. 153. Can that be right? Not sure what kind of equipment he's in, but the kid is a talent on these road courses.

Bill Kimm: David, only thing with Jacques is we say that every year, and every year he lets us down. Maybe its a pressure thing with him?

Joe Menzer: Ah, he's a road-course ringer, Bill. He's probably just following your advice and playing nice, letting all the regulars go on by.

Bill Kimm: Well played, Joe. You're now up 2-0.

* Numbers: History shows winner often decided on final laps | Canadian driver, model set for debut

Joe Menzer: That's why you can't say that about those guys. And the other guys should know that Jacques and my man Andrew Ranger and Ron Fellows and all the rest are there for one thing only -- to try to get to the front and win. They don't have to worry about points.

David Caraviello: As far as Villeneuve is concerned, dismiss the guy at your own risk. This year he's in Roger Penske's No. 22 car, the one Brad Keselowski usually drives, so he's going to have a great vehicle underneath him. And in his past two Montreal starts, he's finished fourth and third. I know winning is the ultimate goal, but ... dang, Bill, you set a rather high bar for letting people down.

Worst kept secret?


Danica Patrick will race full-time for JR Motorsports in NASCAR's Nationwide Series next year, according to multiple Internet reports. An announcement is expected next week in Phoenix, where Patrick's sponsor, GoDaddy.com, is based.

Joe Menzer: Elliott Sadler is a crafty veteran who told me after Road America, where he finished fourth, that all day long and especially toward the end, he tried to make himself aware of where those road-course specialists were at all times. He tried to drive accordingly. So in some ways, their aggressiveness tempers the aggressiveness of the Nationwide regulars. But remember this: Marcos Ambrose is not a Nationwide regular. Neither is Boris Said. They'll be going for it, too.

David Caraviello: And don't forget about Fellows, who is in a Hendrick Motorsports car. And then there's Boris, who happens to be the defending champion in this race, and who I'm sure will drive like his hair is on fire in a Turner Motorsports entry. Those are great cars, gang. We tend to forget how good the road course experts really are, because they're not in the best of stuff in Sprint Cup races anymore. That all changes in the Nationwide Series. These guys will race in some stout equipment, and I expect them all to be up front.

Bill Kimm: As long as they drive clean, I have no problem with them. To use an earlier comment, Boris drives like his hair is on fire. It's unnecessary. He's supposed to be one of the best at this, and the only way he can succeed is by being overly aggressive? I don't buy it. Fellows didn't ruffle any feathers last weekend. Run your race, but be respectful. That's not too much to ask.

Joe Menzer: No matter what happens in Montreal, the racing at Watkins Glen just confirmed for me once again that I love the road-course racing and we need a road course in the Chase. NASCAR president Mike Helton didn't rule it completely out when asked about it at Watkins Glen. I would love to see it.

David Caraviello: Menzer, I can't agree more. Glad you were able to pay attention amid all your schmoozing with Adam Richman at Watkins Glen. Let's just hope this one stays dry, unlike a few previous Montreal races where they broke out the rain tires. Oh, and let's hope this one doesn't get too crazy at the finish, like the Nationwide road course event earlier this season at Road America. Which of course means they'll be nine-wide coming across the finish in the rain, and it will take three days to figure out who won. Sacre bleu!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writers.

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