Roller Coaster Weekend for Sampey Three time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Sampey was feeling overwhelmed before a wheel even turned at the 54th running of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park near ...
Roller Coaster Weekend for Sampey
Three time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Sampey was feeling overwhelmed before a wheel even turned at the 54th running of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park near Indianapolis, Indiana. When not preparing to make a pass on her Rush Racing S&S powered V-Twin, Sampey was on the phone with friends, family and neighbors of her Houma, Louisiana home. When qualifying first started on Friday, Hurricane Gustav was still a long way off but projected to strike the Louisiana coast. That projection was dead-on. Gustav and the U.S. Nationals marched relentless on through Labor Day Monday.
"Indy is always the most stressful race of the year," said Angelle. "It's such a big race and so long, and two races in one weekend with the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle. On top of that, I came here knowing I was going to be dealing with a major hurricane crossing right over my house and family."
The weather for Friday's 5:00pm qualifying session in Indy was certainly no hurricane. The air temperature was 86 degrees, relative humidity was 56 percent, barometer at 28.99 inches, the adjusted altitude at 3,756 feet, and track temperature was 114 degrees. But the overriding weather condition of the moment was a warm, stiff headwind. No hurricane, but enough to be the dominant feature of the round. That wind is reflected in Angelle's slow 181 mph trap speed, and the slow MPH of the whole class. Still, it was the team's best opening round qualifying result. Angelle ranked third despite losing vacuum when some oil pan screws backed out, and having to really ride the bike, leaning hard to the left to maintain the groove.
qualifying round 1
3rd Angelle Sampey left lane 7.141 at 181.81 mph
So going into Saturday's Ringer's Gloves Battle, the Rush team was feeling great. The Ringer's Gloves Battle Pro Bike Battle is a race-within-a-race, based on qualifying points and running concurrently with Saturday's qualifying sessions. Angelle was ranked fifth in Ringer's points and scheduled to run Eddie Krawiec in round 1. A tough draw, because Krawiec sat atop Friday's qualifying order with a 7.10 and ran a 7.0 in the special Friday evening Pro Bike Battle test shot. George Bryce, the six-time national champion tuner and crew chief on Sampey's S&S powered V-Twin, always elects to sit his bike out of the Friday night pass. The team knew they had the tune-up and knew that the Q1 pass would have been quicker without the vacuum leak. Confidence settled over the Rush Racing pit like a warm blanket on a crisp, fall evening.
But oh, how cruel the cold light of day can be! When Angelle staged the bike for round 1 of the $25,000 Battle, the throw-out bearing failed and the clutch pulled her bike through the beams. The disconsolate Sampey got off the bike, walked to the wall, took off her helmet and gloves, and was immediately surrounded by the ESPN cameras and microphones. Despite 11 starts in this all-star race, a Ringers Gloves win remains a feather outside of Angelle's cap. Krawiec went on to win the Battle in his very first year.
Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle round 1
(W) Eddie Krawiec .119 6.998 at 188.89 mph
Angelle Sampey broke
With bikes all around jumping into the 6s, Angelle improved in the afternoon round of qualifying, but with a 7.01 it was not where she or the team wanted to be. "That was our first chance to tune the bike," reasoned team owner Karl Klement, who was upset about the lost opportunity in the Glove Battle but refused to place blame. And despite their problems, the team was still qualified in the top half of the field.
qualifying round 3
7th Angelle Sampey left lane 7.010 at 187.55 mph
The pendulum swung back the other way for Angelle and the team on Sunday, with the Rush Racing Buell making a nice 6 second pass on yet another bight and cloudless summer morning.
Needless to say, the atmosphere at the Rush racing trailer was much better than Saturday. Angelle, though, was still distracted by the drama surrounding Gustav and her Louisiana home. When not signing autographs, she was glued to her iphone.
qualifying round 4
6th Angelle Sampey right lane 6.987 at 188.65 mph
The final qualifying session was another snakebit round for Angelle and the team. A crank sensor failed midway through the pass, shutting down the S&S V-Twin.
qualifying round 5
6th Angelle Sampey left lane 12.893 at 61.16 mph
Sunday evening's Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle banquet was a chance for Angelle and the Rush team to unwind, a rare break at the track from the pressure of competition and, for Angelle, a break from the worry about Gustav. She sat between fellow Louisiana natives Michael Phillips and Kurt Matte, who was flanked by G2 chief mechanic Ken "Big" Johnson. Needless to say, this group earned the moniker "Hoodlum Table" from Angelle when she addressed the banquet.
The roller coaster hit rock bottom for Angelle in round 1 on Sunday. Literally at the same moment that Gustav was coming ashore just south of Houma, Angelle's Buell suffered another mechanical failure, shutting the motor down and knocking about 15 mph off the top end.
eliminations round 1
(W) Angie McBride .020 7.078 at 186.18 mph
Angelle Sampey .103 7.081 at 173.58 mph
"It went bang on the 4-5 shift and went bang-bang-bang on the 5-6, then shut off in sixth," said Bryce. "The crank sensor could have been the reason, but it could have been knocked out by the crankshaft itself."
"Once again we had a lot of bad luck," said Angelle. "It's getting really frustrating with all the mechanical problems. It would be really easy for my team to lose faith and get discouraged, but they aren't. We did not do what we wanted to for our sponsors, especially all the people from Rush racing that were here. Any time, but especially when they're here, you want to perform perfectly. We also had new sponsor XXX Race Fuels here, and I'm really disappointed for them. We wanted to help put them on the map at the U.S. Nationals.
"The hurricane was a huge distraction worrying, but I would have to say in a good way. I had something keeping my mind off the racing so I wasn't so stressed out about the race itself."
"No matter what happens today, we go into the next race at Charlotte with 50 points separating us from first place," noted Bryce. "That's only two and a half rounds in five races, or twenty rounds of racing."
"This race really doesn't count in points, because the Countdown starts at the next race," said Angelle. "If we're gonna have horrible luck, it's better that it happens this weekend."
"All the trouble is behind us now," finished Bryce. "We win three rounds more than Andrew Hines, Matt Smith, and Chip Ellis and we're the champs."