Angelle's Ride to the Powerade
Star Racing Team overcame multiple
en route to third consecutive Pro Stock Bike title
By Jon G. Knapp
Americus, Georgia, December 10, 2002 - The 2002 NHRA
Drag Racing season came to a close last month with an awards ceremony held
at the lavish Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California. In each of the four
professional categories, a POWERade champion was crowned, with Angelle
Savoie capturing the Pro Stock Motorcycle honors for the third consecutive
Angelle took to the stage resplendent in her red evening
gown, seemingly far removed from the trials and tribulations the Star
Racing team had faced throughout the year. Although the final result was
the same as in the previous two seasons, the circumstances surrounding
this most recent championship have earned it a special place in the team's
long and illustrious history.
"Every championship is special, and you cherish
each one, but our 2002 POWERade title will always rank near the top,"
explained Angelle. "Throughout the year, it seemed like a day
wouldn't go by without this Star Racing team being tested in one way or
another. But with each challenge, we just dug deeper, pulling together as
a team, and never losing sight of our target. It wasn't easy, but it ended
up working out in our favor."
The season opened under a cloud of uncertainty, as for
the first time in recent history, the Star Racing team would start the
year without a primary sponsor, with their Suzuki's usually colorful paint
scheme replaced by a stark primer gray finish. Even so, Angelle and crew
quickly gave notice of their intent to defend their 2001 & 2002
championships by qualifying second and powering to the final round at the
season-opening event in Gainesville, Fla. In what would prove to be the
beginning of a season-long battle for Pro Stock Bike supremacy, Angelle
faced surprise finalist Craig Treble, with this first encounter going her
Even so, the team's gusty performance in Florida caught
the attention of a small radio-control accessory company, who expressed an
interest in sponsoring the Star Racing entry. With negotiations underway,
Angelle and crew battled mechanical gremlins to record a solid semi-final
finish in Houston.
Sitting second in the POWERade points, the team headed
to their home track in Atlanta buoyed by a newly signed three-year
marketing agreement. In typical Star Racing fashion, Angelle greeted the
new sponsor by claiming her first No. 1 qualifying position of the year,
shattering the Atlanta Dragway elapsed time record, winning the event and
reclaiming her position atop the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings.
"At the start of the year, we had all agreed that
we would stop racing after Atlanta unless we found a new marketing
partner," detailed Angelle. "Even though we concentrated on
trying to win in Gainesville and Houston, it was hard to focus on racing
with the sponsorship question hanging over us. That's what made our
performance in Atlanta even better - not only did we get to the winner's
circle, but we knew we were going to keep racing, fighting for another
The positive momentum generated in Atlanta carried over
into the next two races. In Englishtown, Angelle and the Star Racing
Suzuki shattered the national elapsed time record in qualifying with a
7.049-second blast that cut nearly five hundredths of a second off the
previous mark. A visit to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet one week later saw
the Americus, Georgia-based team capture its third consecutive No. 1
qualifying position en route to their second win of the 2002 season,
further extending their lead in the championship chase.
Having clearly established themselves as the favorites,
it seemed Star Racing's path to the 2002 title was clear. However, an
unexpected challenge arose in Columbus, Ohio, when long-time adversary
Matt Hines, whose national record Angelle had broken in Englishtown,
accused the team of operating outside the NHRA's rules. The close-knit
crew's primary concern about this unwarranted assault was its effect on
the reputation they had worked so hard to build, even after innumerable
and extensive technical inspections proved Hines' allegations to be
"We pride ourselves on being honest racers,"
stated Angelle. "If someone out runs us, we don't stand around
complaining or pointing fingers - we just go back to our trailer and work
harder. There are a lot of great people in Americus, Georgia who work long
hours to give me a fast Suzuki to ride, which is the main reason we were
upset by Matt's comments in Columbus.
"After a while, however, it was almost funny. The
NHRA technical department went over everything, from the bike to my helmet
and leathers, and of course, didn't find anything. But even that wasn't
enough to satisfy some of our competitors, who said the right people
hadn't done the inspections. The bottom line is that we knew we were
clean, so we just focused on doing our jobs on and off the track."
Naturally, Star Racing's response to their rival's
challenge would come on the race track. At the next race in Madison,
Illinois, Angelle scored a two-wheeled trifecta, setting the Gateway
International Raceway elapsed time track record, scoring her fourth No. 1
qualifying position of 2002 and powering to her third win of the year.
This performance pushed her advantage in the POWERade points standings to
over one hundred markers heading into the second half of the season, and
seriously reduced the number of true contenders for the title.
Sitting in second place was Craig Treble, who was
enjoying the best season of his professional career. Treble had managed to
doggedly keep pace with the two-time defending champion, and was seemingly
ready to take advantage should she unexpectedly stumble. Although yet
another No. 1 qualifying position and final round appearance at Bandimere
Speedway in Denver seemed to dispel any notion of a letdown,
uncharacteristic mechanical problems at the next two races did allow
Treble to narrow the gap heading into drag racing's biggest race of the
year, the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind.
However, unbeknownst to those outside the team, the
shrinking points lead was the least of Star Racing's concerns. Sadly, the
promising start to a long-term marketing partnership seen in Atlanta
seemed light-years away, as the team's primary sponsor failed to live up
to their side of the agreement. This forced team owner George Bryce to
shoulder the tremendous financial burden of running the team, severely
limiting their competitive efforts. However, Bryce was determined to see
this championship fight through to the end, and scrambled to find the
"Few people knew it at the time, but our season
came very close to ending during the summer," commented Angelle.
"Due to the difficulties with our sponsor, we faced the same
situation as we had at the beginning of the year, racing out of our own
pocket. But to George's (team owner Bryce) and the entire Star Racing
team's credit, even on a shoestring budget, our performance never fell
Fortunately, once the news of the team's struggles
became public, other companies stepped up to help. Long-time friend Curt
Woodward, whose Wisconsin-based Retail Fixture had provided the impressive
display cases used in Star Racing's showroom, came on board as the title
sponsor for the Brainerd and Indianapolis events and remained as an
associate for the remainder of the season. Long-time associate sponsor
Snap-On Tools increased their participation for the U.S. Nationals.
Finally, Uncasville, Conn., entertainment complex Mohegan Sun assumed the
role of primary sponsor for the final three races (as well as being a
major associate sponsor for 2003), ensuring that Angelle's championship
chase would not end prematurely.
"We were very lucky that Mohegan Sun, Curt Woodward
and Snap-On Tools came to our rescue," said Angelle. "Without
their help, we would not have been able to finish the year and win the
championship. We truly appreciate their support, and hope they enjoyed the
In each case, the companies were rewarded for their
actions with a significant victory. In Indianapolis, Angelle not only
successfully defended her 2001 U.S. Nationals title, but also scored an
important win over Treble in the semi-finals to add to her points lead.
Reading saw the Star Racing rider add to her already impressive racing
resume when she defeated Karen Stoffer in the second all-female final in
NHRA history (and first ever in Pro Stock Motorcycle).
The back-to-back wins put Angelle in the enviable
position of being able to clinch her third championship at the penultimate
race in Las Vegas. Entering the event with a commanding 173-point
advantage, she simply had to equal Treble's performance to claim the
title. However, in true Star Racing style, Angelle delivered a performance
worthy of a three-time champion.
After qualifying second, Angelle dispatched Karen
Stoffer and Geno Scali in the early rounds to force one final showdown
with Treble in the semi-finals. With the Star Racing entry having a slight
performance edge, and needing to win to extend the championship fight to
the last race in Pomona, Treble tried his best to gain the starting line
advantage. Unfortunately, the battle was over before it began, as he left
the line too early, handing the automatic win and the championship to the
young lady from Louisiana.
"All year long, Craig Treble was an awesome
opponent," exclaimed Angelle. "He pushed me every step of the
way, making me a better racer. I felt it was a big compliment to us that
he felt he had to push the tree as hard as he did in Vegas. He's such a
great competitor, and he was pushing it because he knew he had to, but
even so, that red light was unusual for him. I was just happy to clinch
As if securing her third consecutive championship was
not enough, Angelle put a well-deserved exclamation point on her POWERade
title in the final. Facing archrival Matt Hines, Angelle exacted a little
poetic justice by drilling her opponent at the starting line, leaving
nearly three hundredths ahead to score the hole-shot win. This was the
second win in as many starts for the Mohegan Sun Suzuki, as well as the
first time the Star Racing rider had won three NHRA national events in a
"There is nothing better than to win on a hole
shot," said Angelle. "Naturally, the Star Racing team gets most
of the credit and they should, because they build and tune my Mohegan Sun
Suzuki, but to beat Matt on a hole shot was an awesome feeling. I can't
really explain it, but, as strange as it may sound, I felt like I finally
had something to do with our winning. In a season full of highlights, that
win has to be among the best."
In retrospect, 2002 was yet another banner year for the
Star Racing crew. They led the Pro Stock Motorcycle category with six wins
in eight final round appearances, as well as seven No. 1 qualifying
positions. They established a new standard for first-round success in the
NHRA's professional categories with a 46-race streak that extended back to
August of 1999. Not only did they set a new national elapsed time record,
but they also recorded the three quickest elapsed times in the history of
Pro Stock Motorcycle. Angelle's third championship tied the legendary
Shirley Muldowney for the most titles by a female competitor, and, having
accomplished the feat in consecutive years, she equaled Hines' record in
the two-wheeled category.
However, despite the innumerable successes, the one
aspect of their performance which stands out the most among the Star
Racing crew members is their ability to consistently overcome any obstacle
put before them, further cementing the bond this small crew has forged
through their years together.
"This Star Racing team has always been tight, and I
think this year brought us even closer together," opined Angelle.
"As I have stated repeatedly, I would never race with any other team.
The only Pro Stock Motorcycle I will ride is a Suzuki owned by George and
Jackie Bryce, with Ken Johnson as my crew chief and Jason Jones on the
"Throughout this year, we faced more than our share
of difficulties, and never gave up. We won and lost as a team. It's a
performance we can all be proud of, and I'm looking forward to coming back
with the Star Racing team next year as we go for four in a row.
"The challenge has already begun, as we are
actively looking for a new primary marketing partner to join our family of
associate sponsors, including Suzuki, Snap-On Tools and Mohegan Sun. No
matter what, I know when we start the season Gainesville, we'll be
Jon G. Knapp