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Strong Start Has Jerry Savoie Thinking Big At NHRA Summernationals

NHRA Mello Yellow drag racing series

Strong Start Has Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle Event Winner Jerry Savoie Thinking Big At NHRA Summernationals

Jerry Savoie admitted to being a slow starter throughout the course of his Pro Stock Motorcycle career. That appears to have changed during the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and the result could spell more success at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the site of this weekend’s 47th annual NHRA Summernationals.

Savoie enters as the defending event winner on his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki. His win at Raceway Park one year ago got his season going. Savoie had not yet won a round entering the race in 2015, but his start to 2016 has been much more impressive.

Savoie finished as the runner-up at the most recent Pro Stock Motorcycle race in Atlanta, giving the Louisiana alligator farmer added confidence he can capture a second straight NHRA Summernationals victory. 

“Every year it seems like we usually start off slow and step up,” said Savoie, who is currently fourth in the points standings after three Pro Stock Motorcycle races. “This year we got going a little earlier. We normally never run well in Atlanta, but we’ve been creeping up on the bike and we had a really good weekend. The goal this year is to finish in the top three and if we can make it there I’ll be pretty happy.”

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winners of the iconic summertime event that for the first time will be televised on FOX Sports 1. It is the fourth of 16 events for the Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors and a year ago it proved to be the first highlight in Savoie’s standout season.

He finished with two more victories following Englishtown and third in points behind Eddie Krawiec and defending world champion Andrew Hines. As satisfying as that was, Savoie wanted a better start to his 2016 campaign and that’s exactly what has happened.

Savoie and his team, led by crew chief Tim Kulungian, focused on a couple of specific aspects and the results have been impressive. He already has five round wins in 2016 – five more than he had at this point one year ago – and qualified fourth in Atlanta before falling to Krawiec in the final round. 

“Starting off, my reaction times the last couple years have been a struggle and I’ve been trying to figure out what was going on,” said Savoie, who has four career victories. “It turns out we had an issue with the motorcycle and (in Atlanta) it seemed like maybe we got on the right track with that. With the engine, Tim went with a different set-up and that’s worked really well.

“We ran well a year ago in Englishtown and stumbled onto something. To go faster than any Suzuki had ever gone in the class, that was pretty amazing. We just figured out something and hopefully we can keep it going this year.”


Savoie started to click as the temperature got warmer and the season got busier a year ago, and he’s expecting nothing less than that this season as well.

“I like it when the weather gets warmer and I think Tim has the upper hand on tuning in those conditions,” Savoie said. “When things are clicking, people start pressing against you and make mistakes. When that starts happening, I get even more comfortable.”

But he also has to deal with a deep and talented Pro Stock Motorcycle field led by Krawiec, who has two victories and final round appearances in all three races. Other top riders include Hines, three-time event winner Angelle Sampey, Gatornationals runner-up Hector Arana, two-time champ Matt Smith, veteran rider Steve Johnson, Chip Ellis, Michael Ray Jr. and rookie Melissa Surber.

Savoie, though, feels good about his own improvements and knows his team will continue to push forward in the ultra-competitive class.

“To be honest, at this point in time I feel more comfortable,” Savoie said. “We’ve got a couple things we need to get figured out, but we’re working on it. That’s the whole process of being a race team, you go at it slowly and try to make tweaks, but we’ll be fine. I don’t really get stressed. I’m a very mellow person, and take it day by day and just keep moving forward.”

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Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

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