In Saturday’s Xfinity Series Winn-Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway, Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54 Toyota will have yet another face behind the wheel: Boris Said.
The 52-year-old road course specialist will make his first Xfinity start since the 2011 race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
Unlike his predecessors, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin, Said’s part-time appointment to the No. 54 Monster Toyota is not a result of circumstance.
Hamlin and Jones were pressed into service to replace Kyle Busch, who was injured in the Xfinity Series’ season opener at Daytona and is out indefinitely. Since then No. 54 has been driven by Jones for three races and Hamlin for four, with both achieving a season best of fourth-place finishes at Richmond and Las Vegas respectively.
Said, on the other hand, knew he would be stepping into the black Toyota well before the incident.
“I’ve know about this since right before Christmas,” Said shared in a team release. “It was great when I got the call from Joe Gibbs Racing. I feel really fortunate to have the opportunity to race for a top team and to get to do this in my 29th year of racing.”
Saturday’s Winn-Dixie 300 at Talladega is the first of seven events in 2015 for Said, who has started in 23 Xfinity Series events since 1998, but none at the 2.66-mile track. The California native has two starts at the track in the Sprint Cup Series in 2005 and 2007 in which he finished 27th and 35th respectively.
“Needless to say it was one of the best presents I ever got,” Said added. “Imagine the feeling of getting a great Christmas present and then having to wait until May to play with it!”
After Talladega, Said will return to the No. 54 for two races at Iowa Speedway (May 17, August 1), Chicagoland Speedway (June 20), Mid Ohio Sportscar Course (August 15) Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (August 29) and finally Kentucky Speedway (September 26).
“Obviously the No. 54 Monster Energy group is used to running up front and going for the win,” Said remarked. “We’ll have to tone the expectations down a little for the ovals, but I’m hoping to run in the top-ten throughout the day. I’m excited to get in the Monster Energy Toyota and get racing. But actually, I’m excited to get to Talladega. That place is wild, as you never know what could happen there.”
A veteran of racing series including both K&N Pro Series, NASCAR Southwest, ARCA, V8 Supercars and Rolex Grand-Am, Said only has only one career victory in NASCAR’s top two series, a 2010 Xfinity race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
That day saw the drivers who dominated the race, Marcos Ambrose (electrical problem), Robby Gordon (fuel) and Carl Edwards, come up short, with Said stepping up to lead the lap that mattered the most.