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:
Driver: Angelle Sampey
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: