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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Boris Said is a bona fide hero in these parts.


And the loyal band of free-spirited “Said Heads” have come out in force this weekend to welcome their road course-racing hero at the Connecticut native’s adopted home track, Watkins Glen International.


The fans wear big curly-haired wigs, a nod to Said’s head of hair and a sign of their allegiance to one of America’s most successful road racers. They are local and vocal and fiercely fond of their hero Said, who met up with several of his fans at the area’s famous Seneca Lodge restaurant this week.


His meal consisted of taking a bite of food, signing an autograph, taking a bite of food, posing for a photo. You get the idea.


“It makes you feel good, it does,” a smiling Said said. “You go to Seneca Lodge to eat dinner and it’s crazy. I was in there last night, having dinner with [Daniel Suarez] and he has no idea, he’s a young kid. He was freaked out by it.


“It was just a lot of hugging and people wearing the T-Shirts coming up the whole time to talk or get an autograph. It’s fun and kinda neat.”


Said will drive the No. 32 Genesee Beer Ford in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2:30 p.m. ET, USA/MRN/Sirius XM). It’s his first NASCAR start of the 2016 season, but 16th career green flag at The Glen where he has often been tabbed to lead a team’s road racing effort.


His best finish is third in 2005. He’s led nine laps (all in his first start in 1999) and raced cars from James Finch’s “Thank A Teacher Today”-sponsored Chevy in 2011 to the famed Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Little Debbie Ford in 2007.


He won the pole here in his first-ever XFINITY Series start in 1998 driving a car owned by former Cup driver Jimmy Spencer. Twice he finished fourth including last year for Joe Gibbs Racing.


“It’s crazy for me because I still love driving, but I’m almost 54,” Said said.


“I keep thinking I’m going to retire, but …” he said smiling and putting his hands up. “I have no hope to win, but it’s still fun to drive.


“It’s still better than watching it on TV and this is one of my favorite places to come, the track, the people, Seneca Lodge, the whole thing.”


After his drive at Watkins Glen, Said is set for some sports car racing in Europe and will start the Monterey Motorsports Reunion, a historic car race driving one of his former Corvette racer.


And, he said, there’s a chance he may make an XFINITY Series start.


Said also owns BMW and Volkswagen dealerships in his home state of California and his K1 Speed indoor go-kart track franchise recently opened its 34th facility.


As Said spoke about his busy life and reflected on his winning career, there was a knock on the team’s door from 23-year-old Nicolas Hammann. The young driver met Said through the GT Academy reality show, where he bested thousands of aspiring racers. He wanted to get some advice from Said before his maiden XFINITY Series start Saturday at Watkins Glen.


“Best thing you can do is run all the laps,” Said offered. “The risk versus reward is a touchy situation, so play it safe and be there at the end and then be aggressive. Race to the checkered.”


Hammann was clearly eager to discuss the day’s strategy with his mentor.


And Said clearly enjoyed the opportunity to help a young driver. Especially at a place that has meant so much to Said’s career.


“Now when I come here I just think about all the years here and the memories of rubbing fenders with Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards,” Said said. “It’s been awesome. The competitive side of you is a little bummed out you can’t be competitive, but you know the limit of your equipment.


“But,” Said said breaking into a grin. “It’s always a blast driving the car fast here.”

HOLLY CAIN is a senior writer who has worked for NASCAR.com since 2012. She has covered the sport for 25 years for a variety of publications, including the Tampa Tribune, Dallas Morning News and FOXSports.com.

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