There is a Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson FXDR at the top of the qualifying chart in Pro Stock Motorcycle but it’s not Friday leader Andrew Hines nor is it his teammate, Eddie Krawiec. Instead, the quickest run of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals thus far was made by Angelle Sampey, who rocked Saturday’s first qualifying session with a 6.816, her best run since joining the Vance & Hines squad last March. Sampey, who’s two Indy wins both came on a Suzuki, was able to outrun Hines, who was the early leader after his 6.864 Friday night. If Sampey can hold on to the top spot after Sunday’s two runs, she will receive her first green [low qualifier] hat since the fall Charlotte event in 2016. It will also mark the 50th of her career that she’s been the top qualifier.
“We haven’t been happy with the way my motorcycle has been running so we took almost everything off of Andrew’s bike and put it on mine,” said Sampey. “I’ve been so overwhelmed with learning to ride this bike, that I haven’t given the team to sort of feedback they want. We just wanted to figure out why I can’t run the back half the same way that Andrew and Eddie do. We changed the fuel injection and just about anything we could change so we could learn something.
“I knew that it was a good run because it went straight. I was so happy about that I was screaming in my helmet before I even got to the end of the track. When they told me I ran 6.81 I was so excited. I knew it was a good run. I can tell you that riding this motorcycle is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It’s a powerful bike but the torque is so different that it takes a lot of skill. It shows me just how talented Andrew and Eddie are because they make it look easy. I’m really happy right now but I still have to race on Monday. I want to do well because I want more than anything to show Vance & Hines and Harley-Davidson that they made a good decision when they hired me.”
Sampey has more than 20-years of experience on a Pro Stock Motorcycle and she’s got three NHRA world championships and 43 national event wins to her credit, but she openly admits that learning to ride a Harley-Davidson V-twin has been one of the biggest challenges of her career. Sampey has struggled to adapt to the aerodynamic properties of the Harley, specifically the lack of a front fairing, but the recent switch from Street Rod to FXDR body work has helped improve her comfort level and her confidence. In Q3 Sampey was able to remain consistent with a 6.832. So far this season, Sampey has qualified in the top half of the field seven times with a best of fifth in Richmond.
Sampey wasn’t the only rider to show a big improvement on Saturday. Reigning world champion Matt Smith overcame some early clutch issues to post a 6.820 on his Denso EBR and break up the Harley-Davidson trio of Sampey, Hines, and Eddie Krawiec. Smith has won 23 national events in his career including the 2006 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Hines, the runaway points leader and winner of seven of the first nine events, also showed a four-hundredths improvement with a 6.823 which is good for the No. 3 spot.
A total of 14 riders have gotten six-second time slips and the current bump spot is a healthy 7.032 by Joey Gladston on his Reed Racing EBR. The riders outside the field include Jianna Salinas, Michael Ray, and Andie Rawlings. There are two more qualifying runs scheduled for tomorrow.