You get used to NASCAR drivers mentioning sponsors in interviews, but usually they only dish fellow competitors, not competing products to their sponsors.
But it happened twice last night after the Daytona race. First, No Fear's Boris Said, the pole sitter and who led late, hyped SoBe by saying buy it instead of that "Red Bull stuff" and a line like "drink more cases so we can run more races."
Then, Tony Stewart, the winner, dished the Pepsi colas placed on his car (Pepsi is the race sponsor so they get stuff in the winner's circle) and said he'd drink Coke even the Coca-Cola weren't a sponsor right after someone handed him a bottle.
Fox next cut to Pepsi's main man, Jeff Gordon, who had nothing bad to say ("If I don't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all"), but the interview mainly featured Gordon's Pepsi cap.
Was that planned? I mean Gordon wasn't among the top finishers who have to hang around for TV. Pepsi not only sponsored the race, the brand was advertised during the race with the funny Pepsi delivery trucks and A-Rod ad. With Fox, the coverage-commercials-political spin just blurs. The VP showed up in Daytona to monitor driver-pit communications, right?
Said, by the way, is one of the freshest storylines to hit NASCAR this season. Here Said is trying to make it as a regular Nextel driver at age 43, an age when some drivers start to think about life outside the car. Yeah, he's been around for years as a "road race ringer," but here he is winning the pole at Daytona ("I feel like the chimp that gets to fly the rocket") and then finishing fourth Saturday night.
Said has formed a racing team with No Fear founder and CEO Mark Simo and crack crew chief Frank Stoddard (whose savvy call to stay out rather than pit late gave Said his top five finish). The new team debuted the weekend before Daytona at Sonoma, Calif.
The team is running a four-race schedule so far (Sonoma, Daytona, Indy, Watkins Glen) and is looking for sponsor money to expand. It's such a small operation Said and Stoddard are turning to themselves to do things like order crew uniforms and clear logos with NASCAR.
After winning the pole for Daytona on Friday, Said said:
"It feels damn good ... I was getting a lot of, 'You're too old, you're too tall,"
With his Afro-hairstyle and penchant to say anything, he has a very different media image than the young and very commercially bankable pretty boy drivers:
"I am who I am. I feel I have always been honest and direct and pretty much say what’s on my mind. Sometimes I slip, say the wrong thing and get into trouble. But I don’t mean any harm. I like to get along with everybody. It’s more fun that way."
Like Stewart (who's not always wanted to get along with everybody, but who likes to have fun), Said is fun to watch just to see what they'll do next. Even if you're not a NASCAR fan, try to catch an interview with him. You may just turn into a Saidhead.