NHRA: Alligator ‘farmer’ Jerry Savoie chompin’ at bit for Pro Stock Motorcycle title

(Photos courtesy Auto Imagery and NHRA)
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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.

Jerry Savoie
Jerry Savoie

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.”

Savoie in the early days of his racing career more than 20 years ago. (Photo courtesy JerrySavoie.com)
Savoie in the early days of his racing career more than 20 years ago. (Photo courtesy JerrySavoie.com)

* 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.

2016_jerry_savoie_action

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.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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