Throughout his career, White Alligator Racing Suzuki rider Jerry Savoie has had a knack for stealing the spotlight on NHRA’s biggest stage. The winner of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in 2015, Savoie also mounted an impressive performance during the 2016 playoffs to win the NHRA Mello Yello series Pro Stock Motorcycle championship. Savoie struck again when he topped points leader Andrew Hines in the final round to win his second Indy title. The race ended early on a red-light start after Hines’ Harley-Davidson FXDR apparently rolled out of the starting line staging beams, but in all honesty, he would have been hard pressed to keep pace with Savoie, who made the four quickest runs on race day to win his tenth career final round.
Savoie fought back tears when he described the feeling of being a competitive racer well into his 60s.
“When I started doing this, I said all along that I just wanted to win one race,” said Savoie, who also defeated Hines in the final for his first win at the 2014 St. Louis race. “You’ve got to realize at my age; I’m 60 years old. My day is coming. I only planned to be out here for a couple of years. I’ve been here for eight now. It’s tough. To all the armchair quarterbacks out there, if you think this is so easy, come and get you some. Also, after Sonoma, I was eating a piece of pizza and broke a tooth and my jawbone, and I’d made up my mind I wasn’t even going to come here. Finally, my wife told me to just go and have fun.
“Anyway, the Suzuki’s have been struggling lately but thanks to Vance & Hines and Tim [Kulungian, crew chief] they’ve been working on a couple of combinations and it paid off. We found the sweet spot and I maintained my composure all day and we made some good runs. The Harley guys, you can’t take anything away from them. They win races because they’re not only the fastest, but they are the most consistent. When I dumped the clutch, I saw Andrew’s red-light come on. I knew we had him covered. He was a little nervous. They tested here, and this is his home track so I’m a little surprised he didn’t run better.”
Savoie was the No. 8 qualifier in the quick field, but his Suzuki came to life during Monday’s final eliminations with a string of 6.8-second runs that were among the quickest of the day. Savoie made the quickest run of the opening round with a 6.847 in his win against Ryan Oehler, and followed with an identical run in the quarterfinal round to stop Joe Gladstone. Savoie punched his ticket to the final with a 6.864 in the semifinal round to stop Hines’ teammate, Eddie Krawiec.
With seven wins in nine events and a 29-2 record in elimination rounds coming into Indy, not much had gone wrong for Andrew Hines this season, and the five-time Mello Yello series Pro Stock Motorcycle champion stretched his record to 32-round wins by beating Kelly Clontz, Scotty Pollacheck, and reigning champ Matt Smith. Despite the loss, Hines was able to lock up the top spot in the Countdown to the Championship standings.