Savoie Is Winningest, With a Caveat

Anyone who has been around drag racing for more than a day or two knows it is impossible to equate driving a top fuel dragster with riding a pro stock motorcycle.

The point in question involves Shirley Muldowney, a three-time National Hot Rod Assn. champion of the 6,000-horsepower top fuelers, and Angelle Savoie, defending champion in NHRA’s 600-horsepower two-wheeler class.

When Savoie, a 5-foot-1, 105-pound registered nurse from New Orleans, defeated Antron Brown in the pro bike final round Sunday in Denver, it was her 19th career win--one more than Muldowney--making her the winningest female racer in NHRA history.

Only six women have won an NHRA event. The others are Lori Johns (4), Shelly Anderson (4), Lucille Lee (1) and Cristen Powell (1), all in top fuel.


As Savoie was nearing her mark, Muldowney shot off an e-mail to Team Winston, Savoie’s sponsor, saying that there shouldn’t be any crowing until the cyclist won a third championship, as the former Cha Cha did in 1982.

Savoie, 30, although oozing confidence in her ability to beat the guys, as Shirley did, is not the type to crow. Well, maybe a little.

Her comments regarding the differences in driving a dragster and steering a bike could be taken as a mild put-down to Muldowney:

“I have a whole different challenge than she had,” said Savoie after winning at Pomona on July 7, the day she equaled Muldowney’s record. “There’s a lot more driver input in racing these motorcycles. There’s more tuner input into a top fuel dragster.”


Then she added: “She is a three-time champion and regardless of how many wins I have, I haven’t reached her level yet.”

Riding a motorcycle has been a major part of Savoie’s life since she was 6 and started taking long rides with her family in the Louisiana countryside.

“When I first started racing, none of the little kids paid any attention to the fact that I was a girl. I was just one of the gang.

“Later on, though, when I started racing drag bikes in 1995 and I would push my bike up to the line, they all thought I was some cute little girl pushing her boyfriend’s bike. You should have seen the look on some guy’s face when I put on a helmet and climbed on myself.”

And you should have seen the look after she dusted them off.

George Bryce, a former racer and owner of the Suzukis she rides, calls Savoie “the most determined person I have ever met.”

Her pro bike statistics are dominating. She has won 14 of her last 37 national events, has appeared in 20 final rounds and owns a 96-23 (.807) elimination-round record during that span. After 10 events in the 14-race schedule, Savoie leads second-place Brown by 72 points and third-place Matt Hines by 144.

June 2, at Joliet, Ill., she went a quarter-mile, from a standing start, in 7.103 seconds, equaling the fastest pass in history. Her top speed is 188.86 mph.


“I know people think I’m a little nuts to ride a bike that fast, but I have a strong passion for it. There’s no feeling like it. I can have a fight with my husband, be battling the flu and sneezing all the time, but when I put my helmet on, I forget everything but getting down that strip as fast as I can go.”

Would Savoie like to try driving a top fuel or funny car some day?

“No way,” she said. “They’re crazier than I am. They’re sitting in a box. No way I’d ever do that.”

The NHRA has announced its 2002 schedule and there will be no summer night race at Pomona.

This year’s July event was held to celebrate the Glendora-based organization’s 50th anniversary and speculation was that if it were successful, it might become an annual event.

Although there was an enthusiastic turnout, NHRA officials felt that two events at Pomona--the season-opening Winternationals and the season-closing Auto Club Finals--and two in Las Vegas would be enough for Southland fans.

The Pomona dates are Jan. 31-Feb. 2 and Nov. 7-10.

It was also announced that the pro stock truck class, which always seemed to be an intrusion into the top fuel and funny car time allotment, will be dropped. The trucks will now compete in Federal Mogul competition eliminator.


There was no announcement, however, on who will replace Winston as series sponsor next year.

Under regulation of tobacco advertising, R.J. Reynolds had to surrender title sponsorship to either the NHRA or NASCAR’s Winston Cup series. It chose NASCAR.

On the Water

It must be summer because it seems as if there are more events on the water than on land.

On Saturday, the 53rd Catalina Ski Race will take off from Long Beach Harbor--between Grissom and White islands--and race to Catalina and back. The fastest skiers will complete the 62-mile course in less than an hour.

Defending champion Todd Haig set a course record of 52 minutes 3 seconds last year. The Dick Simon Marine-presented event, hosted by the Long Beach Boat & Ski Club, is the world’s largest and most difficult ocean water ski race.

On Sunday, the Skat-Trak Pro Watercross Tour for jet skiers will end its 20th season in Ventura. Team Kawasaki’s Chris MacClugage, who clinched the pro ski title last week in Long Beach, will try to win the pro runabout crown for the third double in his career. The Canyon Lake rider also won both in 1994 and 1999.

Yamaha’s Tera Laho, a six-time national champion, will be out to extend her record winning streak to 25 in the women’s pro ski race.

On Aug. 4, the Long Beach Sprint Boat Nationals will be held in Long Beach Marine Stadium, while the fourth annual Huntington Beach Offshore Grand Prix is scheduled for Aug. 18-19.

Sprint Cars

The biggest Sprint Car Racing Assn. news happened off the track last week when three-time champion Richard Griffin severely cut his right arm in a work-related accident in Silver City, N.M. Griffin, who had seven wins this year in quest of a fourth championship, suffered two cut tendons and two cut arteries while working with steel on a grinder.

Doctors said it is unlikely he will suffer permanent damage to his arm and that he should be able to resume driving his sprint car. Griffin told friends that he expected to be back next month.

Tony Jones will take over Griffin’s ride Saturday night at Perris Auto Speedway in Ron Chaffin’s Madera Produce No. 50. Chaffin hopes to catch points leader Cory Kruseman for the owners championship before the season ends.

Kruseman has 1,591 points to Griffin’s 1,447. Mike Kirby and Troy Rutherford, with 1,273, are tied for third.

Last Laps

The 2002 AMA EA Sports supercross schedule released Thursday has three races at Edison Field, the season opener Jan. 6, Jan. 19 and Feb. 2. No races are at the Coliseum or Rose Bowl, but San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium has a Jan. 12 date. Ricky Carmichael won this year’s series on a Kawasaki but is expected to debut a Honda next season.

Ed Haddad, one of the legendary midget drivers at Gilmore Stadium in the 1940s, will be inducted posthumously into the National Midget Hall of Fame on Aug. 26. Also being honored are retired racing official Gordon Betz and drivers Les Scott and Tony Stewart, winner of last year’s Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix at Irwindale Speedway.

The Wise Guys Street Rod Club will hold a free car show for pre-1973 vehicles Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Irwindale Speedway’s parking lot. At 4, the gates will open for the night show, NASCAR’s Auto Club late models, super stocks, Grand American modifieds, speed trucks and legend cars.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck driver Joe Ruttman will drive a Chevrolet in Saturday’s NAPA AutoCare 250 Busch Grand National race at Pikes Peak Raceway in Fountain, Colo. Ruttman, 56, won at Pikes Peak in a truck race earlier this year. . . . Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve and teammate Olivier Panis have had their contracts with BAR extended through 2002. Not so fortunate was veteran Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who was fired. Frentzen could land a ride with Toyota’s new team next year. Ricardo Zonta will replace Frentzen in Sunday’s German Grand Prix.


This Week’s Races


Pennsylvania 500

* When: Today, qualifying (CNNSI, noon); Sunday, race (TNT, 10 a.m.)

* Where: Pocono International Raceway (triangular oval, 2.5 miles, 14 degrees banking in Turn 1, 8 degrees in Turn 2, 6 degrees in Turn 3); Long Pond, Pa.

* Race distance: 500 miles, 200 laps.

* 2000 winner: Rusty Wallace.

* Next race: Brickyard 400, Aug. 5, Indianapolis.

* On the Net:


NAPA Auto Care 250

* When: Today, qualifying, 1 p.m.; Saturday, race (Channel 4, 12:30 p.m.)

* Where: Pikes Peak International Raceway (D-shaped oval, 1 mile, 10 degrees banking in turns); Fountain, Colo.

* Race distance: 250 miles, 250 laps.

* 2000 winner: Jeff Green.

* Next race: Kroger 200, Aug. 4, Clermont, Ind.

* On the Net:



Target Grand Prix

* When: Saturday, qualifying, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2, 3 p.m.); Sunday, race (Channel 7, 1 p.m.)

* Where: Chicago Motor Speedway (oval, 1.029 miles); Cicero, Ill.

* Race distance: 231.525 miles, 225 laps.

* 2000 winner: Cristiano da Matta.

* Next race: Miller Lite 200, Aug. 12, Lexington, Ohio.

* On the Net:


German Grand Prix

* When: Saturday, qualifying (Speedvision, 4 a.m.); Sunday, race (Speedvision, 4:30 a.m.)

* Where: Hockenheimring (road course, 4.239 miles); Hockenheim, Germany.

* Race distance: 180.755 miles, 45 laps.

* 2000 winner: Rubens Barrichello.

* Next race: Hungarian Grand Prix, Aug. 19, Budapest.

* On the Net:


Northwest Nationals

* When: Today, first-round qualifying, 3:30 p.m.; Saturday, second-round qualifying, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN2, 4 p.m., tape); Sunday, final eliminations, 10:30 a.m. (ESPN2, 3 p.m., tape)

* Where: Seattle International Raceway; Kent, Wash.

* 2000 winner: Gary Scelzi.

* Next race: Fram Autolite Nationals, Aug. 5, Sonoma, Calif.

* On the Net:

Associated Press