When it comes to unlikely pairings Angelle Sampey and the Vance & Hines team go about as well as orange juice and toothpaste. At least at first glance. Then again, it’s worth noting that Don Garlits once raced as a teammate to Shirley Muldowney, so it’s best to never say never.
Since her arrival in 1996, Sampey has often been at odds with the Vance & Hinescrew. First, her rivalry was with fellow three-time champion Matt Hines and later, she sparred with current Harley-Davidson factory riders Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec. At times their rivalry has been contemptuous, and its occasionally bordered on comical but it was no laughing matter when she was added to the team this winter on a four-race showcase.
Sampey makes her long-awaited official debut with the Vance & Hines team this weekend and she describes her mood as cautiously apprehensive. She’s also quick to point out that there was a lot more to the move than just ordering a new set of riding leathers. Sampey has previously ridden a Suzuki, Buell, and Victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle competition but the Harley Street Rod is an entirely different animal.
“This bike is so much different than anything I’ve ridden before; it’s not even close,” said Sampey. “It’s mostly due to the wind. This bike doesn’t have a fairing so you feel the wind. People used to ask me, ‘What’s it like to go almost 200-mph on a bike?’ and I’d tell them that I barley feel it because on the bikes I’ve ridden, you can’t feel it. On the Harley, you can feel it. It feels like you’re going 300-mph. To be honest, I was a little intimidated by it at first and that’s not something I’d say often. I know it’s just a matter of getting acclimated but there is definitely an adjustment.”
Sampey got a chance to test the Street Rod for the first time in early February at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park and her results were mixed. More recently, she tested earlier this week at Orlando Speed World Dragway and recorded a 6.79, one of the best runs of her long career.
“I came home after Phoenix and put in some serious sessions in the gym,” Sampey said. “I worked on my core strength and it made a difference. We also made a few changes to the bike to make me more comfortable. We built a new seat and had a little better clutch.
“At first, I think there was a little fear of the unknown,” said Sampey. “I’d never ridden the Harley, so I really didn’t know what to expect. The second time we tested in Orlando I felt a lot more comfortable, but I know I still have a lot of work to do.”
At the Orlando test, Sampey ran 6.79, but both teammates Krawiec and Hines and were quicker with runs of 6.75 and 6.76, respectively. Krawiec topped 200-mph and Hines was just a tick behind at 199 while Sampey’s best speed was 195-mph.
“I had a few comments on my Facebook page where some people were saying we didn’t have the same power but that’s not even close to the truth,” said Sampey. “I didn’t have the throttle open all the way to the finish line. That’s why my speed is down. Our elapsed times were almost identical to the eighth-mile. There was a little bit of a crosswind so I left off early. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with this bike.”
The Vance & Hines crew knew that Sampey could ride long before then extended the offer to join the team, but after many years as bitter rivals, there was a curiosity to see how well they’d bond as teammates. For Sampey’s part, she claims no such lingering animosity exists.
“We all get along really well,” she said. “I only knew how competitive they were on the track. I didn’t get to see Eddie and Andrew and their crew when they’re back at the trailer or in the shop or out to dinner. They’re really serous about what they do but they’re also a lot of fun. And, they’ve accepted me and made me feel right at home from day one. I appreciate that a lot. Eddie did tell me that I wasn’t allowed to cry, though.”
Sampey admits that racing a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is a longtime dream, especially since her father, David, is a big fan of the Milwaukee-based brand.
“It’s still amazing to look at my leathers and helmet and see my name next to the Harley-Davidson logo,” said Sampey. “I’ve wanted this for a long time, but I just never thought it would happen. I think the moment this all became real was when I saw my name added to back door of the trailer. I had to stop for a minute and think about it and take it all in.”
So, now that she’s about to make her Vance & Hines debut, the drag racing world wants to know; what will it take to turn a four-race showcase into a full-season run for a potential fourth championships?
“I honestly don’t know,” Sampey said. “Terry [Vance, team co-owner] told me not to worry about results. I’m sure they want to see progress, though. I’m a wife and a mother. I’m not a young, stupid kid who is going to go out and be reckless, especially with someone else’s motorcycle. I need to be respectful and I understand that I might not set the world on fire in these first four races. At the same time, I want to perform so well that they can’t do anything other than keep me out here. I’ve wanted to ride this motorcycle for as long as I can remember. I don’t want to give up on this.”