Pruett repels Said's charge
Boris Said starts last and finishes second to 1987 winner Scott Pruett.
By BRUCE LOWITT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2003
ST. PETERSBURG -- At the start, 16 cars -- which is to say the rest of the field -- separated Scott Pruett and Boris Said. At the end, Said had passed all 16.
But he ran out of time and ran out of car, too much of an obstacle to keep Pruett from becoming the first repeat winner (after a long interval) of Sunday's Trans-Am race that concluded the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend.
"I'm a back-to-back winner here but it took 16 years in between," said Pruett, a two-time series champion who won here in 1987. He won for the first time since 1994 by holding off Said to average 87.113 mph and win by 1.30 seconds.
Said, the defending Trans-Am champion, would have started fourth behind the Jaguars of Pruett, team owner Paul Gentilozzi and Johnny Miller. But an inspection after qualifying turned up a broken part that lowered the nose of Said's Mustang below the 21/2-inch clearance margin. That put him at the rear of the 18-car field.
The lanky, outspoken Californian with the wild hair and goatee was diplomatic when asked if he'd have won without the penalty that buried him in the back.
"Scott pretty much had the car this weekend, and he's a good driver," Said said. "You can't look back and say. Sure, I'd like to think that. ... If I started fourth, it would have been a close race."
How much closer than the 1.30-second margin, he didn't speculate. "Scott was playing with us at the end. It's a long season, the first race. So second place from where we started is a great place to finish. ... I would have given him a lot harder time. But it was a lot more exciting for me, more fun for me coming from the back."
By the 11th lap, Said was eighth. By the 16th, he was fourth. By the 24th, he was jockeying with Gentilozzi. Said passed him for good with 18 of the 55 laps remaining but never seriously challenged Pruett, even with the benefit of an intentional yellow caution flag from laps 41-43, implemented this season to tighten the field for the final push.
"The first time I passed him I think I ran through a bunch of stuff from -- what was that support race before us? Oh, yeah, the CART race," Said said with a straight face about his battle with Gentilozzi. "I thought I had a flat and he went right back by me. I got him back again. He was just a number to me. I had fun passing everybody. It wasn't just him. I wasn't looking at the (drivers). They were just victims."
Passing Gentilozzi might have been Said's most satisfying moment, considering they haven't been on the best of terms lately. Again, he was the diplomat.
"We're apparently in litigation because I got fined five grand last week for speaking my mind," Said said with a bit of a grin. "I've got to be careful, so right now my lawyer said no comment on (Gentilozzi's) No. 3 car. But I had fun racing with him. He was very clean and I was clean and I have no complaints."
Gentilozzi, who bought the rights to Trans-Am and runs the series, was fourth, behind Miller. "To come from the back of the pack is a hell of a deal," Gentilozzi said of Said. "He had a real hot rod."
"We burned it down a little," Said said, "trying to come to the front while (Pruett) could probably save his car for the end. I was pretty much out of tires, out of car, out of brakes, out of everything."
Pruett said he knew where Said was at all times and that, besides his teammates, Said was his biggest concern. But Pruett's team was constantly telling him Said's position, how fast Said's laps were as well as his own, how fast he was closing and so on.
That's one of the benefits of running first, Pruett said. "You can pace yourself and take care of equipment. Boris had a tremendous race working his way up the field. Having been in that position myself once or twice, you know you've got to use up your car to do it. You can't run the line you want to; you've got to demand more out of the car. I was fortunate to have a little more car left at the end."
Back to the St. Petersburg Grand Prix home page
Race for the future
Teams' portable garage gone in blink of an eye
Fans give activities thumbs up
Junqueira ends troubled weekend with third
One rookie mistake is just one too many
Rookies display mettle
Broadcast tough for rookies to follow
Gentilozzi fights own car, field
Pruett repels Said's charge
British driver's victory earns him championship
At nearby businesses, a rush, then a pause
LightningSabres hold Lightning back
Team seeking perfect fit in a defenseman
'Gutless play' makes Grahame fighting mad
RaysRays' Kennedy won't be intimidated
White will learn against Eckerd
John Romano: Hitting his stride, 30 years later
Gary Shelton: Fun key among big expectations
Hale of a win for Fleisher
Weir rallies from 7 back for win
Fleisher: Save thistournament
Jack has Georgia on his mind
Sanders turns down Lions' offer
Baker's son having a field day
Umpires starting to come back together
Matsui will get a taste of game action today
Devils push luck, but beat Penguins
Tyson not quite ready for Lewis
Jayhawks' huge rally falls short
Tennessee wins at LSU to stay unbeaten in SEC
UT, Eckerd set to meet twice
Last-second kick ends Storm's skid
4th delay has Swiss sniping
McGrady's 46 fetter Nets
Rookie Bernstein gets first Top Fuel victory
3 skydivers injured before race
Jarrett's experience trumps youth in N.C.
One screams, one soothes; it's a winning combination
Daily fishing report