NHRA Drama Part
2: The Star Break Up and What Happens Next
By Tim Hailey
"I never say never, cause never's
a very long time," George Bryce said in response to Mike Lozano's
prediction that "I don't think you'll see George Bryce build
another Suzuki Pro Stock motorcycle." But Angelle Savoie, now
headed for a seat at Antron Brown and Mark Peiser's Team 23,
once said that she would never race for a team other than Star.
"As long as my team offers me a job," Angelle clarified. "As
long as you provide me a bike, I'm going to race. But he put
my bike up for sale."
Angelle in happier times
"I kept asking George 'Are we
racing or are we not?' He'd say 'I don't know. We need a sponsor.'
Later I'd say 'Are we racing or are we not? You've got to tell
me so I know what I'm going to do?' He said 'What's four championships
going to do for you that three won't?' And I've never heard
George say anything like that before. Finally he said 'We're
not going to race.' I started crying and I cried for 3 days."
Now, the original impetus for this long, rambling story was
in fact the Star Racing break-up. Angelle is on record as wanting
to start a family with husband Nicky, and George has Star Racing's
long-term interests to mind. But Angelle really wasn't ready
So, continuing to make a fool of myself by insisting on looking
for a current beneath the surface, I now imagined that George
was doing a passive/aggressive thing with Angelle, that maybe
he had his eye on something else. I could just see the two of
them in this intense conversation, with George occasionally
gazing over Suzuki dealer Angelle's shoulder at the S&S
V-twins taking shape in the corner of the shop.
"The decision to dissolve our race team had nothing to do with
V-twins," said George, bursting my visionary balloon. "The reason
was 100% because we couldn't afford to go racing the way we
"George didn't want to keep spending the money and I understand,"
said Angelle. "We've been trying to get a sponsor since Winston.
We've had two bad experiences with Close Call and CVEC."
The loss of Winston sponsorship as a result of the tobacco settlement
was obviously a huge blow to the team. Winston spent a lot of
money making Angelle a celebrity. And beyond money lining their
pockets and supporting a top shelf racing effort, the Winston
deal brought George and Angelle unmatched exposure. While the
other Pro Stock bikers were pitted out in the weeds (quite literally
at Maple Grove), Star Racing was sharing a canopy with Alan
Johnson and Gary Scelzi's Top Fuel team. Ask Scelzi about life
"Everybody can get along with everybody when you're kicking
ass," said George.
Mohegan Sun Casino jumped in as a primary sponsor the last three
races of this past season, but George suspects they won't be
following Angelle to Team 23. "I don't think so," said Bryce.
"They were pretty much dealing with me on that. We agreed to
bring a lot of people to the casino. There's so much to getting
and keeping a sponsor. It's all about return on the investment.
At the racetrack she did great with that, but that's just the
tip of the iceberg. There's so much that goes on outside of
the racetrack to make a sponsor happy. But I told Angelle 'If
you work as hard at securing a sponsorship as you did winning
championships, you'll get the results you want.'"
But immediately following the break-up, Angelle wanted to find
a ride. "George said 'It's going to be OK. It's not the end
of the world. You can do some TV broadcasting or find a ride
with another team,'" reported Savoie, who owns a Suzuki dealership
(Angelle's Motorsports) in Houma, Louisiana. "'What other team
would I race with George? What am I going to do?' I talked to
Antron. He was scared when he heard that I wasn't going to race,
just like I was scared when I heard that Matt wasn't going to
race. We were all scared for the class. He said they had another
bike and maybe we could get sponsorship with two bikes that
we couldn't get separately with one. As soon as we started talking
about it the phone started ringing off the hook."
Savoie and Antron Brown, once competitors, will be racing
on the same team.
"She called and she was upset,"
said Brown, Angelle's cousin by marriage. "She was going to
look for a job doing some TV announcing or something. She wanted
to work with somebody she trusted. She'd worked with (Team 23
chief mechanic) Mark Peiser before (at Star). She got really
excited about the whole deal.
"We still need some money, some major sponsorship money," continued
Antron, who refused to divulge any information about his mystery
investor. "He was helping us out last year. He loaned the money
so that we could get our team going."
The word on the street at the first of the year was that Team
23 was switching from Vance & Hines powerplants to motors
from either Star or Greg Cope. "We're building our own motors,"
"Angelle has proven that she can do just about anything," said
George. "She's a product of the way we go racing. It'll be entertaining
to watch her carry that out. If she continues to be successful,
she'll continue to have lots of fans. I got in on the beginning
of that deal. I am her biggest fan and I'd like for her to do
"Everybody wants to look for something bad in all of this. Dave
Feazell called to talk about his new chassis and he said 'OK
George, now tell me the dirt.' It's only human nature."
"George is everything, the wind beneath my wings," Angelle said
after winning at Maple Grove in October, 2001. "He's the reason
for everything I've done-coach, dad, financial advisor. George
and I have fought like cats and dogs. We've raced together,
fought together, cried together, prayed together…"
But now it's a new season. "Now I get to work on stuff that
pays," said Bryce. "I'm building engines for Chris Reuter and
whoever buys my championship bike. It's not done yet. Whoever's
interested in a deal that big, I'll give them a lot of help."
"I couldn't quit racing even though I desperately want to,"
said Angelle, who lives in a country house in Louisiana's Lafourche
parish. "I want to have a family, but Ncky and I talked about
it and we decided we'd have to put it off for a couple of years."
will be seen riding Harleys
around the pits more and more
"I'm going to spread myself out
a little more," said George. "I've got a no-wheelie bar Buell
that I'll be riding (in Street Pro at the AHDRA race in Gainesville)
and trying to set a record with. If I slow it down too much
I might put Freddie (Collis) on it."
On the Return Road Back to "The Issue"
Collis is pre-entered for the Gators on the 2002 Star Racing
championship winning Suzuki listed under the Area 51 Motorsports
banner. "Area 51 is two guys that sell planes out in Dallas,"
said Bryce. "They're trying to purchase that motorcycle and
run that bike with one of my engines."
If that sale goes through soon, look for Collis and Bryce to
be testing that bike at the Gainesville Prostar race. Bryce,
at least, will also be sticking around for the AHDRA race midweek.
"I'm bringing the Buell (built for Jordan Cruz), a Nitro Harley
and, hopefully, a Pro Stock. And some beer. My favorite is Bud
Light, but I've been migrating towards the (Michelob) Ultra.
I like their commercials, with everybody working out and sweating
and drinking beer. Everybody wants to look like that. That's
the same as the Soloflex commercial, but with beer." And just
how did this guy, with a beautiful, popular woman in the seat,
not get a sponsor?
No doubt the pits during the long Prostar/AHDRA back-to-back
events at Gainesville will be rife with further speculation.
And like Larry McBride said: "It's good for all motorcycle racing."
"We plan to have a real presence at the NHRA events," said AHDRA's
Lisa Hegler. "And Screamin' Eagle will be at Gainesville (AHDRA
race) in full force, along with Willie G. (Davidson)."
And how will the motorcycle industry's presence look at NHRA
POWERade events in the coming years?
Suzuki's Pat Alexander points to a "nitro at half of the events,
Pro Stock at the other half" mix. "Everybody could live with
that since Pro Stock Bike doesn't cover the whole series," said
Alexander. "There could be a situation where the two could share
the customer base."
Alexander points out that Suzuki is the official motorcycle
of the NHRA and is a contingency sponsor, but not a class sponsor.
"Other than 95% of the bikes having Suzuki powerplants," he
Terry Vance agrees that a competitive, multi-manufacturer class
is best for the NHRA. "That's a real no-brainer statement there,"
agreed Bryce. "That's a pretty safe bet."
"The Pro Stock class is going to flourish when a Harley-Davidson
can compete with a Suzuki," said Vance. "Once we crack the code,
and it ain't easy, we're going to be making history. And that's
what it's all about."
"I don't think it's that far away," said Bryce. "Last year Feazell
was 4/10ths behind the Suzukis. This year at the Gators I think
he'll be 2/10ths behind. That's a big jump in a short time."
Tom Bradford would also like to maintain the status quo. "The
dream for us and S&S is to qualify and win against Suzukis.
If they make it an all-Harley deal, to me it's gonna take it
away a little."
"It is just my personal opinion that the NHRA will move to an
all-Harley class at the national level," said Scooter Kizer.
"They'll move the inline stuff to the Sport Compact series.
They'll run some events with Top Fuel, some with Pro Stock.
They'll still call it Pro Stock. They'll definitely chose Harley
over Suzuki and a couple of Kaws."
"I'm just happy to be there," Mike Lozano said about the NHRA,
but he doesn't think that inline bikes will soon be able to
say the same. "They just may not be at the POWERade races. They
might be at the Summit import races."
"What would be really cool would be to have a TL-1000 body with
an S&S V-twin in it," said Bryce. Hmmm. George is ready
for anything, but what does he think will actually happen? "I
haven't a clue. These are turbulent times."
Tim Hailey can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org