Interview with the Pros: Angelle Savoie
By NHRA Communications
Angelle Savoie cruised up to the starting
line in the semifinals to face Craig Treble at the ACDelco Las Vegas
Nationals in October. A win over Treble would seal her third consecutive
NHRA Pro Stock Bike championship. A loss would postpone the celebration
for the 2002 champion. Treble's red-light during that round gave Angelle
the title before she got to the 60-foot mark. Angelle moved on the
finals and won the race too. With 28 career victories, Angelle ranks
fourth on the all-time win list for the two-wheel category, and 12th
all-time for all pro competitors. In this championship Q&A session,
Angelle talks about what it is like to be a three-time champion, how
tough the season was and what's next on her career to-do list.
Q: Why have you been able to string together three consecutive
ANGELLE: It has everything to do with the determination of the whole
team. The entire Star Racing team including (owner) George Bryce, myself
and everyone who contributes are all determined to make it work. No
matter what is happening, good luck, bad luck, financial problems or if
things are going great, I have never met a group of people that are more
determined to do something. That is what it is all about. When we are
faced with a problem, that is when we work even harder. If one of the
other teams is doing better, that lights a fire under us. I think one of
the major reasons why we have been successful is that we finally started
clicking together (three years ago). When I first started racing with
George (in 1996), it took us a long time to learn how to deal with each
other. We used to argue all the time because we are both very
strong-willed people who were determined. I think being the first female
that he had to work with took some time too. He didn't know how to
handle it. John Myers could have had the worst time of his life at home
and he would still come to the track and no one would ever know it. That
is not the case with me. If I was going through emotional problems,
marital problems, financial problems, or female problems, they would
show. I also had to learn how to deal with him too, being a teacher and
a coach. His whole life is racing. He is 100 percent, all the time, all
about racing. When I come home from a race, I want to be a different
person, I don't necessarily want to think about the next race right
away, but he would. Once we learned how to work together and deal with
those issues, we clicked and that was it.
Q: With all the turmoil you experienced with sponsorship issues this
season, is this the most satisfying championship of the three?
ANGELLE: I don't think anything will be more satisfying than the
first championship. We worked so hard for the first and when it finally
happened, I felt a thousand pounds lighter. I had always heard from
people that it is more difficult to repeat as champion and defend your
title, but I disagree. I think it has gotten easier for this team to
work together. Once we got the first championship, the pressure was off.
I felt like I had to win the first championship. This year has been
different. The whole feeling is very weird because of all of the
struggles we had with sponsorships and I had my own personal issues to
deal with at home that were just as bad that concern my business. It was
a very difficult year for me and it was even a little hard to celebrate
because we have been dealing with so many issues all year and we are
still struggling with sponsorship problems. I can't wait for the year to
be over. It has been one of the toughest in my life and everything that
has been going on really put a damper on the whole championship. It's
very hard to celebrate when so many other things are going wrong. I wish
I could smile more about the championship and I know that I am very
lucky in a lot of other ways. Every morning I wake up, I get out of bed
and I can walk, I can talk and breathe. There is nothing wrong with me
and I am very fortunate in that respect. I just wish I didn't have the
big problems financially with my career and my business because it makes
it hard to be happy.
Q: What were your initial thoughts when Craig Treble came out to win
the first two events of the season?
ANGELLE: My first thought was that it was just good luck, not
something we would have to worry about. That is because I beat myself at
both of those races. In Gainesville, I short-shifted in second gear and
then I did the same thing in Houston. I took it hard and I blamed myself
for those two races. Then I came to the realization that Craig could
have done the same thing, but he didn't. He was perfect in those two
wins and he was near perfect in a few more. He earned those wins and he
earned his second-place finish. I am lucky we had the team we did this
year because he could have gotten the No. 1 position if we didn't do our
Q: There were allegations of cheating that were thrown at your team.
Did that motivate you to win even more?
ANGELLE: I think so even though it is something that I am used to
now. They have been accusing me of cheating since the first day I
started racing. I used to take it hard; I used to take it all
personally. I felt like they were calling me a liar and now I just take
it like they are complimenting us on what we are doing. Our team is
doing so good they think we are cheating. I laughed it off when Matt
(Hines) had the audacity to do that (at the Columbus race). That just
made our team say, 'Hey, you think we are cheating now, wait until we
really get pissed off and our (performance) gets even better.' That
would be the thing we would say when we went faster, 'I wonder what they
were saying about us now.' It all just added to the fun. I don't know
what to think about Matt and what he really thinks about our team. The
year (1998) when he won 10 of 14 races, it crossed my mind if they were
doing something because they were kicking everyone's butt all the time.
In my heart, I really believed that they were just smarter, working
harder and had found something that no one else had yet. That just made
us work harder. You want to say they are cheating, but you know they are
not and I think that is what Matt feels too. It can be very frustrating.
This sport is really hard and it can make you very humble and change
your whole attitude about yourself. You work so hard and you get out
there and in seven seconds you can make one, itty-bitty mistake and it
is all over. It has to be extra frustrating for the guys who stick it
out and never win. They keep trying and I have a lot of respect for
those guys because they are very determined individuals. This is the
hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life and I am very fortunate
to be able to win more than most of the other guys out there.
Q: What was the defining moment of the season?
ANGELLE: I thought it was going to be Atlanta when we got CVEC (as a
sponsor) and we went out and won the race, the first win of the season
for us. We got our first win, with the new sponsor and everything looked
like it was going to be like it was with (former sponsor) Winston. But
then it all turned around again. We went to one race, Sonoma or
Brainerd, I think, and we took all the stickers off because we realized
it wasn't working. It was just a roller-coaster season. We thought
something was going to work, then it didn't and that kept repeating. Our
associate sponsors like Snap-on and Suzuki really are the people who
helped get us through the season by doing one-race deals. It makes you
realize how important those little stickers are and how much they count
because they helped so much.
Q: You were the only NHRA pro competitor to set a national E.T.
record this season. How does that feel?
ANGELLE: That is pretty cool. Claiming the national record is always
awesome. We brought it back home to Georgia. Even though you don't have
a title by setting the record it means just as much as being the
champion to me, and I think it would for just about anybody. They can't
take it away from you, even when it is broken. You still held the
Q: How tough will it be to join the Mickey Thompson 6-Second Club?
When should we expect that to happen?
ANGELLE: I am foaming at the mouth for that one. We went to Reading
and I wanted it so bad that George had to keep telling me to forget the
whole thing. I was thinking about it so much and I really think I was
trying too hard. That's when you make mistakes, when you start focusing
on the record. I need to relax, go back to the basics and that is when
you break the record or just make a really good run. The 6-second run is
something I had to quit thinking about this year. It's not just about
the money ($10,000 to the first rider in the 6's.) Matt was the first
one in the 7.0's (Reading 2001) and then I came right after him and did
it. The money would have really helped us out this year, but it is not
just that. It's another King of the Hill thing. Without a doubt, we will
see it next year. If the weather is perfect, we could see it in
Gainesville, Englishtown, Reading and maybe even Houston.
Q: What is the outlook for a fourth championship?
ANGELLE: I think it is a great possibility but the sponsorship issue
is going to have to be resolved first. I really don't think we can do
next year what we did this year. I don't even think it is possible for
us to start the season without the financial backing. We have the team
to do it, but I think Matt is really going to step up and give us a
fight. I think next year will be the hardest year ever because there is
going to be three teams battling us. Four riders will be fighting for
that No. 1 spot. I think it is going to be me, Matt, Shawn (Gann) and
Craig. Antron Brown will be tough if he can get a sponsor together. He
is going through the same thing we are. He has all the tools to be very
competitive if he gets the sponsor.
Q: Why do you think it has been so difficult to get a primary sponsor
for your team?
ANGELLE: The bikes are more difficult to find sponsors for in general
because we don't go to all of the races and we don't get a ton of TV
coverage, even though it is a 100 percent better than it ever used to
be. We get great TV time now, but still not as much as the (nitro)
categories. We don't have the speed, the noises and the smells of the
Top Fuel cars and I don't think we draw the same sponsor interest, which
is difficult for me to understand. When you look at the people who go to
Kenny Bernstein's pits and then you look at the ropes in front of our
trailer, you are going to see just as many people. The same amount of
people watching Kenny and John Force are watching us too. I still don't
know what the problem is. What more do