It’s not April 1. Hell hasn’t frozen over, and pigs still can’t fly yet when it comes to unlikely occurrences. The recent announcement that Angelle Sampey joined the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team is perhaps the most shocking news in an already peculiar off-season.
Sampey shared more details on her four-race “showcase” with one of NHRA’s most successful Pro teams. Under the current agreement, Sampey will compete in Gainesville, Las Vegas, Charlotte, and Atlanta. Her future beyond that is unknown.
I’ve always wanted to ride a Harley-Davidson. My dad grew up a big Harley fan, and I’m big on supporting American companies, and you can’t get any more American than Harley-Davidson. For all the years that I had a rivalry with Matt and Andrew [Hines] and Eddie [Krawiec], I still had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to ride a Harley someday. I might not have told a lot of people about it, but it was always there. I just didn’t know if it would ever happen.
We started discussing this deal maybe a month ago. Terry Vance called me and, of course, I was interested. That’s an understatement. In fact, I pretty much begged and pleaded with him to let me ride their Street Rod. I’ve always wanted to see what I could do against those guys on equal equipment. Can I ride as well as they can? We’re about to find out.
Before Christmas, I thought it was just about a done deal, and then Terry called me and told me it wasn’t going to happen. I was crushed. At first, I thought he was joking, and then he told me that he just didn’t think he’d be able to put all the pieces together. Like I said, I was devastated. I did have a couple of other opportunities that I was working on that would have put me on a very competitive bike this season, but this [Harley] deal was the one I really wanted.
After a few days, I got in touch with Andrew and Terry, and I told them, “You’ve got to find a way to make this happen. You don’t understand how badly I want to ride one of your motorcycles.” I pretty much pleaded with them and told them there had to be some way to make it happen. It took another few days, which seemed like forever, and Terry called me again and said, “You’ve got four races. Welcome to the team.” I know I catch a lot of crap for crying, but I’m not afraid to tell anyone that I cried. That is one of the best phone calls I’ve ever gotten.
There’s one other thing I need to make clear. Everyone thinks that I hate Eddie and Andrew, and the rest of the team, and they hate me. That’s not true at all. Yes, we did have a huge rivalry, especially early in my career when Matt Hines and I were racing for championships, but we’ve always had respect for each other. Over the last few years, I’ve actually become pretty close with Eddie and Andrew. We all have kids that are close to the same age, and it’s been great to see them bond together when they’re all at the races.
It’s funny to think back and remember some of the battles we’ve had over the years. Matt and I were at each other’s throats from 1996, when we both showed up, until he stopped riding. Then, Andrew and Eddie became two of my biggest rivals. It didn’t matter what team I was with, they were always the ones I wanted to beat most often.
Since we started talking about this deal, those guys have been nothing but supportive. I know there is a learning curve that goes with racing that Harley-Davidson Street Rod, but we’ve talked about it a lot, and I’ve already gotten a lot of great advice. We’re going to go testing sometime in the next few weeks and then hopefully one or two more times before we get to Gainesville. Ideally, I’d like to get at least 10-12 runs before Gainesville.
There are a lot of other things that are just now starting to fall into place. I had to order a new set of leathers and, of course, I wanted to have the same bling that I have on my current ones. I understand there are Harley-Davidson logos that need to be a certain size and have a certain placement, but I still wanted to have my own touch with the crystals and rhinestones because that’s what I’m known for. Thankfully, they agreed. I’m sure this whole deal will become even more real the first time I try those leathers on.
We’ve announced a deal to run the first four races; I’m sure everyone wants to know what it’s going to take for me to race a full season. I’ve been told that they’re going to evaluate the program and then go from there. My goal is to go out there and impress everyone to the point where they can’t say no. Anyone who knows me understands that I’m not a quitter and I put my heart and soul into everything. That’s exactly what I plan to do here. I’ve been out here more than 20 years, but this feels like the opportunity that I’ve waited my whole career for. There’s no way I’m going to let it go to waste. — As told to Kevin McKenna