Antron Brown has already locked up the NHRA Top Fuel championship. Ron Capps has a big lead for the Funny Car title heading into next week’s season finale at Pomona, California.
And it looks like it’ll be a battle between teammates Jason Line and Greg Anderson – separated by just 19 points – for the Pro Stock crown.
But no major professional drag racing class has as tight of a championship battle heading to Pomona as Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Defending champion and five-time overall champ Andrew Hines is tied with teammate and former champ Eddie Krawiec.
But in what could be one of the greatest David vs. Goliath – or would it be David vs. Goliath 1 and Goliath 2 – stories ever in NHRA history, Jerry Savoie is poised to pull one of the biggest championship upsets ever.
Savoie is just three points behind Hines and Krawiec. But there’s a much, MUCH bigger story than just that:
* To start off with, Savoie unquestionably has the most unique day job of any pro racer in the NHRA: He’s an alligator “farmer,” raising somewhere in the range of 60,000 gators in his massive “farm.”
* As unique as his day job is, equally so is the town that Savoie lives in: Cut Off, Louisiana, deep in Cajun country, about 65 miles southwest of New Orleans.
* Having drag raced motorcycles when he was a teen and into his early 20s, Savoie abruptly stepped away from the two-wheelers to start his business and raise a family. He finally returned to racing 30 years later – yes, you read that right, 30 YEARS LATER – at the age of 52 in 2011. With his family raised and his business flourishing, Savoie decided it was his turn for some “me time.” He always felt he left something on the table when he stopped racing, so he went to George Bryce’s Motorcycle Drag Racing School, showed strong promise and, as Savoie likes to say, “the rest is history.”
* Now, at the age of 57, one of the oldest competitors in the PSM ranks, Savoie is on the verge of achieving the greatest accomplishment any driver can reach: the championship. Sure, Hines and Krawiec will be hard to beat, but if they each cancel out each other at Pomona during elimination rounds, Savoie could be Jerry on the spot to win it all next weekend at Pomona.
Savoie has been on a tear of late, winning three races this season (on top of three last season, highlighted by the prestigious U.S. Nationals), including two of the first five races of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs. He won at St. Louis and again this past weekend at Las Vegas (getting a big assist when Hines uncharacteristically fouled at the starting line in the final round matchup). He also finished runner-up at Dallas.
Now, Savoie and his White Alligator Racing Suzuki are ready to bite into the PSM championship. He came close last season, finishing third, 58 points behind Hines. But 2016 could very well end with the gator farmer’s nom-de-plume on the championship trophy.
“We’re excited and we’re fortunate to be in this position,” Savoie said. “I have to give a lot of the credit to the crew and (crew chief) Tim (Kulungian). I know I’ve got a great crew and one fast motorcycle.”
Savoie is known for his patient, methodical manner on his bike. He doesn’t get overly excited and takes things as they come.
But that doesn’t mean he’s a pushover. His reflexes and competitive spirit are as sharp as the teeth in some of the alligators he “grows” back home. And now that he has the opportunity in front of him, he’s ready to take a chomp out of the competition and grab that championship trophy.
“For me, I just love the heads-up competition and I love to get out there and compete against my friends,” Savoie said. “To do something you dream of doing and to accomplish that dream, that’s a big goal on my life. Everything else here is just icing on the cake. There’s a lot of really good riders and some really fast motorcycles, and you need to have a great team to get through this field. You can’t look past anybody.
“If we meet up with Andrew and Eddie (on the way to the championship), I have to do my job. I feel pretty confident about what we can do. I have no doubts in my bike and my team.”
And if he does win the championship, not only can Savoie once again utter “the rest is history,” there’s one other thing that he would love to say in victory lane to all the riders he beat en route to the championship:
“See ‘ya later, alligator.”