Commerce: Angelle Sampey race report

Sensor Lets Sampey Down in the Semis On a week bracketed by Danica Patrick's first IndyCar win in Japan and Ashley Force's first Funny Car win in Atlanta, Angelle Sampey--the winningest woman in professional motorsports--was on her game and on a...

Sensor Lets Sampey Down in the Semis

On a week bracketed by Danica Patrick's first IndyCar win in Japan and Ashley Force's first Funny Car win in Atlanta, Angelle Sampey--the winningest woman in professional motorsports--was on her game and on a winning horse. But an up and down weekend for Angelle and the Rush Racing team ended when a $10 part failed on the S&S powered Buell in the Atlanta Dragway water box.

Simply making the field seemed like a difficult task, though, in qualifying. The Buell hit the rev limiter twice in the first session as Sampey struggled to keep the bike going straight. "I didn't get it in second or third gear," reported Angelle. "I hung off the bike really hard, and we figured I was pushing the shifter button from the side rather than dead-on."

qualifying round 1
18th Angelle Sampey left lane 7.434 at 183.74 mph

After a good first half, an unusual clutch problem took about 20 mph off the Buell's back half in round 2. "The clutch came apart," said Angelle. "When I pulled in the clutch there was nothing there, it had already engaged itself."

qualifying round 2
15th Angelle Sampey right lane 7.165 at 165.78 mph

So for the first time, Angelle went into Saturday's qualifying on the wrong side of the NHRA's new 12-spot qualifying rule. But the bike was back. "The bike was running good in qualifying," said Angelle. "The power was there, we just needed to get the bike down the track straight." A continuing problem, even as her ETs dropped and put her safely, if not spectacularly, in the field.

qualifying round 3
11th Angelle Sampey left lane 7.080 at 183.94 mph

qualifying round 4
11th Angelle Sampey right lane 7.068 at 185.87 mph

Angelle was leaning hard to the left in the final session, leaning the bike on the left edge of the rear tire as it pulled relentlessly to the wall in the right lane. "There was a crown in the right lane, and if you got on the wrong side of that it really pulled you," said Angelle. "That would have been an outstanding run if it had been a straight pass."

The team also decided to change the rear tire. "We kept making the motorcycle faster and faster every run, but we were having trouble making the bike go straight," said six-time champion tuner George Bryce. "It could have been the tire, but we usually don't have trouble with those. But we put one on with five runs on it Sunday morning and away she went."

eliminations round 1
(W) Angelle Sampey .015 v.992 at 189.87 mph
Eddie Krawiec .033 v.989 at 189.04 mph

Indeed. A huge jump in performance from the bike, and Angelle doing her job at the line, resulted in a .015 of a second (about 4 feet) holeshot win over Eddie Krawiec in round 1 of eliminations. "That was a great run," said Angelle.

Next up was class champion Matt Smith, who had put Sampey out of the first two races of the year. Matt got out of the groove and Angelle finally got past him for a round win. "We didn't do as good of a run second round," said Angelle. "I made some mistakes and the tuning was a little off, but we won."

eliminations round 2
(W) Angelle Sampey .082 7.026 at 187.70 mph
Matt Smith n081 7.052 at 185.31 mph

Then came Chip Ellis in the semis. Angelle was paired up with Chip at the season finale in Pomona last year when her bike broke and couldn't make the run. What were the chances of a d0xa820vu experience? Apparently pretty good. "The bike was idling perfectly, but when she went to open the throttle up for her burnout, nothing happened," said Bryce. "She did it again and nothing. She motioned for me to come back and I grabbed the throttle and twisted it and nothing."

"You gotta be kidding me?" said Angelle. "I thought by this time we'd gotten all the bugs out."

"The throttle position sensor failed," said Bryce. "It's a $10 commercially available part at your local NAPA store. It tells the fuel injection when to open the throttle."

eliminations round 3
(W) Chip Ellis n107 6.943 at 192.60 mph
Angelle Sampey broke

"You never know what would have happened if we'd gotten the bike staged," said Sampey. "Chip ran a really good lap, but it's different when somebody's in the other lane. We had the tune-up in it, I was driving it straight, and I'm confident we'd have run really well."

"It looked like a comedy of errors or a series of unfortunate events, but it's been a chain of little things, nothing really expensive," said Bryce, who tested the bike twice between Houston and Atlanta. Admittedly, the first races of the season didn't match expectations for the team. "We found several things in the oil supply and fuel system, a lot of little things that just kept hiding from us. But we're bound to be at or near the end, because we've already been through everything."

"I know people are wondering 'What the heck's going on?'" said Angelle. "But it's not an issue of 'We don't know what we're doing.' You've just got to laugh it off and know it's gonna turn around. I believe in karma bigtime and I know it's gonna turn around for us. We're being good sports and it's gonna turn around. That's what we deserve. It's just been crazy bad luck. My experience has shown that over the course of the year, your luck comes and goes. My hope is that we've gotten all the bad luck out of the way early in the year. I know what George and I are capable of and I know we're really gonna be formidable the rest of the year."

"We finally showed some glitter of the bling," said Bryce. "But regardless of whether we've done well on the track, Angelle and I have totally enjoyed working together again. We had no idea we'd have this much fun, and I'd like to thank Karl and Kim Klement and the Rush guys for giving us this chance. We can see we've turned the corner and are looking forward to St. Louis."

"We really are having a good time," agreed Angelle. "It's really amazing. If we're having this much fun only going one or two rounds, I can just imagine how much fun it's gonna be winning races. I'm very proud of my team. We're winning together and losing together. The first round I won on a holeshot and the second round I won because I had the bike. We're getting better and that's a good thing. Every run this weekend we did better and better."

"Everybody did a great job this weekend," said team owner Karl Klement, who announced the hiring of new crew member Michael Ray. "We're getting the bugs worked out of this thing. If it hadn't broke, I believe we would have won this race."

"This team has so much potential," finished Angelle, who looked ahead to next week's race in St. Louis. "That's the home of our sponsor Doc's Harley-Davidson, and a win there would be awesome!"

-credit: as/ss

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers George Bryce , Ashley Force , Matthew Smith , Chip Ellis , Angelle Sampey , Michael Ray , Eddie Krawiec , Danica Patrick