POMONA, Calif. - While the NHRA has enjoyed its golden anniversary in 2001, with the memories of years gone by, the legends of the sport, record-setting performances and milestones, and the promise of future greatness, Angelle Savoie has had quite...
POMONA, Calif. - While the NHRA has enjoyed its golden anniversary in 2001, with the memories of years gone by, the legends of the sport, record-setting performances and milestones, and the promise of future greatness, Angelle Savoie has had quite a year herself.
The 31-year-old Savoie has experienced a pretty emotional season from beginning to end. A season that she is sure to remember as one of the most memorable in what is destined to become a storied career for one of the sport's current superstars.
The New Orleans rider will continue her remarkable season when she returns to the birthplace of organized drag racing for the 37th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Nov. 8-11, at historic Pomona Raceway. The $2.1 million race is the final of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
Savoie began the season as the defending NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, dethroning three-time champ and rival Matt Hines last year and joining the legendary Shirley Muldowney as the only two females to earn a Winston title. Then in the spring she tied the knot with long-time boyfriend Nicky Savoie, and that was all before her first race atop the 190-mph Team Winston Suzuki. As the season progressed, she went on to pass Muldowney as the all-time winningest female in NHRA history, win the NHRA's most prestigious event, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, and is on the verge of her second straight Winston crown.
"This season has been pretty good because it has been a lot less stressful than last year," said Savoie. "There was so much pressure last year to win that first championship. If I win it again great, if not, I have already proven that I can do it. That hasn't lessened the desire to repeat as champion, but it has been more fun knowing that no one can take that 2000 Winston championship from me. I try not to count points, but this late in the year, I do. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't looking to see where Antron (Brown) was and what he was doing this weekend."
Regardless of her place atop the Winston standings, Savoie will take no championship for granted after losing the 1999 title to Hines at the season finale in Pomona, by a mere eight points.
"I'm real confident that we're going to win (the Winston championship)," said Savoie. "But I'm not counting on anything until it's all said and done. I don't care if all I had to do was qualify -- it all has to be locked up and then we'll celebrate. Anything can happen."
A defining moment of Savoie's young career is when she broke the win mark established by Muldowney, who paved the way for female competitors in motorsports.
"I always thought about winning the title, but being the winningest female hasn't sunk in yet," said Savoie. "I don't think it will sink in until I have enough wins where I am confident no one will ever pass me up. The wins are great, but it's the championships that matter. Shirley said herself that I need two more series titles to equal her, and that's what I believe in my heart too."
With all the success that Savoie has encountered this year, there was a major blow dealt to the relentless rider. Due to the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, her primary sponsor, RJ Reynolds, will not return for the 2002 season.
"Our main focus right now is on winning this year and getting the championship, but getting a sponsor is definitely the second most important thing on or agenda right now," said Savoie. "We do have a deal in the works with good prospects, but there are no contracts signed. There are some things that they want and some things that we want that need to be worked out. However, based on past experiences, even if there is a contract signed, I won't believe it until I get my first paycheck. It's just going to be so hard to leave such a great sponsor and family and to think we will find anyone equal to Winston that would treat us any better."