Photos courtesy NHRA

2016 NHRA season in review: Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Angelle Sampey

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MotorSportsTalk continues its season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

From Dec. 12 through Jan. 4, we’ll feature one daily in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Angelle Sampey:

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Driver: Angelle Sampey

Age: 46

Hometown: Matthews, Louisiana

Team: Star Racing

Sponsor/motorcycle: Star Racing Buell

Crew chief: George Bryce

2016 season finish: Fourth in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

2016 season statistics: 16 races, 1 win, 3 runner-up, 4 semifinals, 5 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 4 times. Round-by-round record: 26 wins, 15 losses.

Career statistics: 211 races, 42 wins, 31 runner-up, 41 semifinals, 56 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 49 times. Round-by-round record: 399 wins, 168 losses. 1 DNQ. Three-time PSM champion (2000, 2001 and 2002).

What went right in 2016: After two part-time seasons (2014 and 2015), Sampey returned to full-time racing for the first time since 2008 (she did not compete from 2009 through 2013). Earned her first NHRA PSM win since 2007 and the 42nd of her career. … Also qualified for her first Countdown to the Championship playoff since 2007 (first year of the Countdown) and 2008. … Good friend with 2016 PSM champ and fellow Louisiana native Jerry Savoie (Sampey used to babysit for Savoie’s children before beginning her racing career).

What went wrong in 2016: Given this was Sampey’s first full-time season since 2008, there’s very little to say that she did wrong. Sure, there was a bit of rust, judging from her three first-round exits (nearly one-fourth of the 16-race PSM season), but there were also signs of the Angelle of old, the same Angelle who won three straight PSM championships from 2000-2002: She reached the quarterfinals or better in 13 of the 16 races, plus she was No. 1 qualifier in one-fourth of the races (4 of 16). It’s hard to say much of anything really went wrong for her.

What to look for in 2017: To come back full-time with technology that was completely different in 2016 than from her last full-time season in 2008, and then to finish fourth in the championship race, Sampey could very easily be considered the most valuable rider in PSM this past season. Given that she still has outstanding talent and cat-like reflexes, Sampey is almost guaranteed to be right in the middle of the 2017 championship chase. And few people would be surprised if she does win title No. 4. She is, after all, the winningest female racer in drag racing history – and there’s likely a lot more wins and potential championships still in her.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.