Three-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Angelle Sampey is trading two wheels for four after recently earning her Top Alcohol Dragster license. Sampey is the first athlete to join former teammate Antron Brown’s new AB Motorsports Accelerate Program, an all-encompassing driver development program. Sampey plans to run three events in an A/Fuel Dragster this season to prepare for a full-season campaign in 2024. The long-term goal is for Sampey to move up to Top Fuel as an AB Motorsports teammate to Brown.
Sampey has performed the warmup procedures in Brown’s Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster several times this season to get comfortable in the seat of a nitro-burning dragster. After the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, Sampey strapped into Jasmine Salinas’ Scrappers Racing A/Fuel Dragster to start the licensing process, which she completed Wednesday, Aug. 23, at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
“Today was one of the most exhilarating days I’ve ever had,” Sampey said after her first licensing passes. “I felt every emotion I can think of. My nerves were so bad, but I was determined to overcome them. After two runs, I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t for me,’ but I kept going because I knew I was capable, and it was just a matter of time until my brain would catch up. It’s been nine months since I’ve been down the track, and today I went faster at the eighth-mile mark than I’ve ever been at the quarter. After the third and fourth runs, I knew that Antron was right, and I would enjoy it.”
Brown, who made the transition from Pro Stock Motorcycle to Top Fuel in 2008, encouraged Sampey to consider the move to four wheels after the 2022 season. He was “thoroughly impressed” with Sampey’s first few passes in the nitro-injected dragster.
“She really did a great job, and you could tell she got more and more comfortable with each lap,” Brown said. “What happens is, just like me, after the offseason when I get back into the car, it feels like a rocket ship. It feels day and night, stupid-fast, because your body isn’t acclimated to going those speeds. So, for her to be back out after almost a year, and then to be in a vehicle that she isn’t used to driving that goes 100 mph faster, she did a great job. She went over 255 mph. We’ve got all the cobwebs out. Now that she’s got the gist of it down, it’s just going to be fine-tuning those small things, and once she gets that, it’s going to be on.”
Sampey, the winningest female racer in NHRA Pro racing history with 46 national event titles, will compete in Top Alcohol Dragster at three of the remaining races on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule – the Texas NHRA FallNationals in Dallas, the NHRA Nevada Nationals in Las Vegas, and the NHRA Finals in Pomona. She’ll drive Salinas’ dragster with Brown’s guidance and support from Mission Foods and GETTRX.com.
“I feel like I’ve been reborn,” Sampey said. “This is a fresh start for me. I told Antron that even if this would be the only time I ever get to drive a dragster, I would be happy with what I accomplished. I had an amazing time. Working with Jasmine Salinas and Scrappers Racing was a great choice. They all made me feel at home and comfortable even in the most uncomfortable situation I’ve ever been in. I simply cannot wait to do it again.”
Sampey is the first driver to join Brown’s new AB Motorsports Accelerate Program, which will provide an array of resources for racers looking to make the next step. The two share a deep background, having raced together on the U.S. Army Pro Stock Motorcycle team for several seasons. They’re also cousins-in-law via Brown’s wife, Billie Jo.
“This goes beyond family,” Brown said. “I’ve worked with Angelle throughout my whole career; you can’t just be a racer on the racetrack. You have to know how to represent your sponsors and be a good ambassador off the track, too. Angelle is the ideal first athlete to be a part of the AB Motorsports Accelerate Program because I don’t have to coach her away from the track. Plus, she already knows how to race.”
After the three-race campaign this season, Sampey plans to run a full season in an A/Fuel car in 2024. The schedule will include a mix of NHRA Camping World Series national events and NHRA Lucas Oil Series regional races. She’ll also continue her role as an ambassador for Mission Foods and their #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge program. The long-term goal for Sampey and AB Motorsports is to have Sampey work her way up to driving a Top Fuel dragster.
“There’s not a chance I’d even think about driving an A/Fuel Dragster, let alone a Top Fuel car, with anyone else. Antron is the only person I’d do this with,” Sampey said. “After last season, I called him for advice for starting my own Pro Stock Motorcycle team. He talked me into moving on. We both agreed that there was nothing left for me to accomplish on a motorcycle, and it’s time for me to give four wheels a try. I’m so glad I did.”
The AB Motorsports Accelerate Program isn’t just for drivers who will eventually compete under the AB Motorsports umbrella. Brown’s vision for the program is to offer resources to both drivers and teams at any level or form of motorsports seeking to capitalize on ABM’s expertise. Services offered as part of the Accelerate Program include everything from driver coaching and licensing opportunities to public speaking training, marketing guidance, and technical support.
“We want to do whatever we can to help benefit the sport as a whole,” Brown said. “With the support of our partners, we have the opportunity to help other athletes level up. There are so many talented people in this sport who just need an extra boost to take that next step. Our goal with the AB Motorsports Accelerate Program is to offer that helping hand.”
Sampey will make her Top Alcohol Dragster debut at the Texas NHRA FallNationals, Oct. 12-15, at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, where she returns as the Pro Stock Motorcycle track e.t. record holder (6.728 seconds, 2022).