Some of Angel Sampey’s earliest drag racing memories came to Atlanta Dragway in a test session before making her NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series debut in Pro Stock Motorcycle over 25 years ago.
The three-time world champion has since enjoyed tremendous success on the track, winning four times, making her one of the favorites for this weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. This marks the 40th and final race on the track and Sampey knows what his perfect send would be: a win over his Suzuki Vance & Hines / Mission Foods 2121 on a track kind of started it all.
“I remember testing there in early 1996 when I first learned to compete and Kenny Bernstein (six-time world champion) was testing that day as well. It was just unreal and I will never forget that day, ”Sampey said. “It was probably my first real introduction to the sport. I have done well there over the years and hope it can continue. It would be really cool to win and it would be great to be the last one to take the stage in Atlanta. But no one in this class is going to make it easy.
Heading into race three of the season, Sampey got off to a good start, recording his first career 200 mph run at Gainesville. His Vance & Hines teammates, multiple world champions Hines and Eddie Krawiec will also make their season debuts in Atlanta, adding to a deep and talented field for the race.
Sampey’s main concern is to continue to adapt to his new bike. There have been a lot of positive signs, but she’s still looking for consistency and still trying to find her comfort level on a bike that has a totally different response and feel to what she’s ridden the past two years. .
“I’m still trying to learn this new Suzuki,” Sampey said. “It takes a lot of finesse and your waypoints have to be precise. From a spectator’s point of view, it might seem like it’s going well, but as a competitor there is so much room for improvement on my end. I have to get the bike straight ahead on the track and make my changes perfectly and I haven’t made it yet. We had some good races in Gainesville and Las Vegas, but we haven’t had those perfect races yet.
Four perfect races in Atlanta would be the perfect capper for Sampey, who has 43 career wins. She joked that Hines and Krawiec’s return to cycling means two less crew chiefs for her and it certainly increases the level of competition. Ultimately, however, it allows for a more complete Vance & Hines team and Sampey appreciates the benefits.
“I enjoyed having them as team captains and having them on the side, but I’m glad they’re back in the race,” said Sampey. “It takes some of the pressure off me in terms of performance, especially as I’m learning this new bike, but I really enjoyed having them there. I just want to keep doing a better job and hope we can get some wins.