CONCORD, NC – September 14, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Having achieved a lifelong dream in 2016 with his first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world title, Jerry Savoie is feeling good entering the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, which starts at this weekend’s NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
It is the first of six NHRA playoff races, yet the reigning world champion feels no pressure to defend his crown on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. The easy-going alligator farmer from Cut Off, La., is simply enjoying the challenging of competing against the elite in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Savoie’s desire to continue winning is as strong as ever, but he remains determined to not let the pressure of defending his world championship get the best of him.
“I think that wining the championship helps you relax more the following year,” said Savoie, who enters the Countdown to the Championship in fourth. “I’m not under pressure that I have to (win a title). Winning last year took the pressure off. I’m just going to roll with it and if it all falls in place, so be it. Now, let me tell you, I want to win. I definitely want to win. We’re going to go have some fun and we have two really fast motorcycles. LE (Tonglet) is in a really good position.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Line (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 17.
Savoie’s teammate, Tonglet, has the points lead starting the Countdown to the Championship on the strength of an impressive five regular-season wins. Combined with Savoie’s two victories thus far, they have clearly formed a dynamic combo in the first year of working together. Savoie believes teaming with Tonglet has helped him in a number of regards and thinks it’s been a great move for his own operation, even if Tonglet ends up winning his second world championship.
“If I was concerned that I put somebody on a bike that could win a championship I wouldn’t have done it,” said Savoie, who has eight career Pro Stock Motorcycle wins. “I’m out there because my heart’s in it and I want to be out there. We talk to each other about who we’re racing, their habits, so we learn from each other. It’s fun. It helps you gather more information, number one, but as a rider it’s helped me become more knowledgeable. That’s what you need because it’s tough out there.”
That’s a nod to the competition level in the class, which includes standouts like Eddie Krawiec, Andrew Hines, Matt Smith, Hector Arana Jr., Angie Smith, Joey Gladstone, Scotty Pollacheck and Karen Stoffer in the Countdown to the Championship field. Counting Savoie and Tonglet, there’s a combined 12 world championships in the class in the top 10, which makes for a daunting challenge starting in Charlotte, but also makes the victories more rewarding.
Savoie credits the work of his team, led by crew chief Tim Kulungian, for a job well done thus far in 2017, but he knows everyone must continue to raise the bar if a second world title is possible.
“We struggled in Indy, but we’re pretty confident we’ll get our groove back,” Savoie said. “If we run like we did in Indy, we don’t stand a chance. If we get to struggling, Tim will find something that’s a problem. It’s a complete team thing and when you’ve got people behind you like that, it gives you confidence. It takes a team effort and this whole crew is great. It’s going to be tough and there’s a lot of fast bikes, but we’ll see if we can do some damage.”
Indy and seven-time Top Fuel winner this season Steve Torrence starts with the points lead, but will have to fight off back-to-back world champ Brown, Leah Pritchett and Tony Schumacher.
Ron Capps will again take the Funny Car points lead into Charlotte, looking to repeat last year’s title run, while defending event winner Force will look for a late-season surge.
Line’s Pro Stock title defense continues in Charlotte, but he will have to chase down top drivers like points leader Bo Butner, rookie Tanner Gray, who has four wins, and teammate Greg Anderson.
The NHRA Carolina Nationals also features thrilling competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying, fans can watch spectacular jet cars. Larsen Motorsports’ four jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech, Matrix System Automotive Finishes, Halo Technology, and the American Dream, will make exhibition passes. As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-455-FANS (3267). Tickets also available at www.zmaxdragway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For info about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association