White Alligator Racing
Savoie locks into countdown, races to first final
CLERMONT, Ind. – Rookie NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle competitor Jerry Savoie overcame obstacles of all kinds over the course of the extended weekend to make it all the way to the final round at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil. It was Savoie's very first time competing at the historical event, and he made a monstrous statement in his debut as he locked into one of the coveted spots in the Full Throttle Series Countdown to the Championship aboard his White Alligator Racing Suzuki.
"I'm very happy with the outcome," said the Cut Off, La., resident who is now ninth in the series standings. "We struggled. I mean, from the plane ride from New Orleans all the way to the semifinals, we had problem after problem after problem, and it was just a crazy, crazy weekend. But to get out there and do what we did today, wow. I'm very proud of Mark [Peiser, engine builder and crew chief] and the work that he has done. He is very tired – he worked until 4:30 one morning and 1:30 another trying to be ready for this day, but look what we accomplished."
The obstacles to overcome began with a late plane for Savoie on the beginning of his journey and then an overnight drive to pick up his motorhome and make it to the track on Friday. Peiser, meanwhile, was at the shop near Indianapolis awaiting a late and critical delivery of parts that arrived Friday morning.
With everyone and everything finally in place, the team expected that there would be a few kinks as they warmed up to their new Hayabusa Suzuki, but they were hoping, at least, for somewhat smooth sailing in qualifying. Unfortunately, each run seemed to produce a different fluke of a challenge, including obliterating one of their top engines, damaging another, vacuum lines being crossed, and a shift light coming unhooked and smacking into Savoie's helmet.
Come raceday, Savoie was qualified in the 14th position on the basis of a 7.024 at 190.75 mph and was ready to put all of the early challenges behind him. He was paired with fellow Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer in the first round and had his head on straight as he was first off the starting line, .036 to Stoffer's .094, and tied it up for a holeshot win at the top end, 6.940 to 6.914.
Round two brought more of the same as he tree'd V-Rod rider Eddie Krawiec, .018 to .057, for another holeshot win and another quick time – his best of eliminations – a 6.931 at 190.16 mph. The tables were turned at the starting line in the semifinals, where Jim Underdahl was first to launch but second to the finish line as Savoie turned the clocks with a winning 7.005 at 188.23 mph.
In the first final round of his young Pro career, Savoie could have broken concentration at the starting line when his opponent's first staging light flickered on, then off, then on again, but he had an awesome .006 reaction time next to first year rider Hector Arana Jr.'s .023. Arana showed his hand at the finish line stripe and got the win-light, 6.867 to Savoie's consistent yet just-short 7.005.
"To do all this, put it together and be in the finals – all I can do is thank Jesus Christ because he probably had his hand on us all this weekend," said Savoie. "I'm poised and ready for the Countdown. We've worked hard since November. This was a quick deal we put together in November, and Mark started working right away, we leased a shop, bought some equipment, and Mark is still working hard."
Though Peiser recognizes their qualifying position as the lowest all season after starting from as high as the No. 2 position (in Norwalk) and, in a separate issue, believes that a lack of parity in the class must be addressed, he was still very pleased with this weekend's end result.
"Jerry just did a fabulous job driving. When raceday started, I was 1) glad that we had a lane to race, and 2) questioning my decision to run the 'Busa, the new body," said Peiser. "It didn't look like it was working out, but now I'm glad I ran it. It finally came around. And when we won first round, the rest of the day was gravy because it locked us into the top 10. That was my main goal at the start of the year with a rookie and a new team, just to get in the top 10. After that, the rest of the day was great.
"To put Eddie Krawiec on the trailer was big. And I love Karen and those guys to death, but to finally beat her after having to race her three or four times first round. Well, you want to beat them, because when you beat them you beat the best.
Savoie agreed and said, "To get those first two rounds on holeshots, it was due. I have been hole-shotting everybody all year long and getting whupped at the other end. It felt good to get there first.
"We went to Gainesville and everybody was totally blown away," he continued. "I went to Star Racing's school and George Bryce told me, 'Brother, if you do this when you get to Gainesville, you're going to shock the world.' I think they're paying attention. They know who we are now."
Savoie will next race at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, Sept. 15-18, where the Countdown to the Championship will begin, and the quickest alligator rancher on two wheels will be aiming to make another remarkable showing to keep his fellow championship-chasers on their toes.