Gainesville: Savoie heads to Gatornationals with competitive goals

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Angelle Savoie is a three-time NHRA Pro Stock Bike champion. Those titles increase expectations at the start of each NHRA POWERade season. This year the winningest female in NHRA history wants two things to happen at the Mac ...

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Angelle Savoie is a three-time NHRA Pro Stock Bike champion. Those titles increase expectations at the start of each NHRA POWERade season. This year the winningest female in NHRA history wants two things to happen at the Mac Tools Gatornationals.

First, she wants to be competitive. She wants to be a thorn in another racer's side. That's nothing new.

Second, she wants to avoid looking like a rookie on the starting line during the first of 15 national event races for the two-wheel category. That's something entirely new.

"I am going to be with a new team with a new motorcycle underneath me. There are going to be a lot of changes all at once," Savoie said. "There are going to be a lot of new faces on the starting line and because everything is going to be new, I am sure I will be full of butterflies before the first race. I will be so proud once we get through that first race. We just need to learn how to jell and how to communicate with each other, especially on the starting line.

"That is my biggest fear right now. We just need to get comfortable with each other and get into the groove of having a new team out there. I am anxious for that to happen."

Savoie and the rest of the two-wheel category will join the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock ranks for the first time this year when everyone meets at Gainesville Raceway for the 34th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 13-16. The race is the third of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Savoie and longtime crew chief George Bryce earned 22 national event wins and three category championships together before parting ways during the offseason. When the announcement of the team breakup was made, it looked as though Savoie would not be competing in 2003.

Shortly after that announcement, however, Savoie and fellow racer Antron Brown decided to join forces and create a two-bike team. They will field two Team 23 Suzukis this season, although the name will likely change when new sponsorship is secured. Savoie suffered through a similar offseason before the 2002 season as well. She didn't get a primary sponsor until May last year but says this season is different.

"I am really optimistic this season because of all of the changes I am going through," Savoie said. "A little change is good sometimes. We have so many things in the works as far as sponsors go, which is different. Last year we didn't have anything in the works. This year we have several meetings lined up and we have people asking a lot of questions."

Racing down the quarter-mile strip starts March 14, but racing to get the team together will continue into the early part of the season.

"I called George (Bryce) just to talk to him a few days ago and he was in the dyno room working on one of the engines," Savoie said. "We are still trying to get our dyno room built. Everybody is going to be a step ahead of us. We can't dyno anything right now, we are just trying to get two engines put together so Antron and I can go racing at Gainesville. This entire team is working to put everything together at the last minute but I already know that we are headed in the right direction."

Savoie said the excitement of the new team has made her even more anxious to get to the track. During the offseason, the Team 23 organization opted to start building their own engines instead of buying them from Vance & Hines Motorsports. Crew chief Mark Peiser is leading the way on the new program.

"I am going to want to win every race and I am thrilled that we are doing this on our own," Savoie said. "This team is going to be able to grow together and be competitive every weekend. That is one of the most important goals. I want to at least be competitive out there. I don't want to get up to the starting line and have someone underestimate us just because I am not with Star Racing anymore or that this team doesn't buy engines from Vance & Hines. We are doing what Star and Vance & Hines did 20 years ago. We are trying to keep this category from being the Star Racing versus Vance & Hines show. We have to start somewhere."

With so many victories to her credit, Savoie said she doesn't have to prove anything. She believes the team is going to win, but she has to be patient.

"This is crazy because it feels like I am going to my first race ever," Savoie said. "I am pumped up about the season all over again. This is exactly how I felt during my first season. Except this time I know I don't have to prove anything. If we don't win a race this season, so be it. But I really think both Antron and I will be very competitive.

"I have already decided my success on the track is not going to affect how much fun I have this year. I could let the track performance beat me up pretty bad, but I am not going to let that happen. I have a lot of faith in Mark and Antron and I am smart enough to know that it will take a little bit of time to make it all happen. Everything looks great and I am very excited for this season to start. I plan on having a lot of fun this season."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers George Bryce