Live Life To The Fullest
It’s all about having no regrets for Angelle Sampey
By Amy Johnson; Photos by Roger Richards; Brian Wood

During her career, three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Sampey has experienced many of the highs and lows associated with professional drag racing. Winning all of her titles while racing with team owner and tuner George Bryce, Sampey has endured much, both on the track and off, since the glory days.  Over the years, Sampey, which is her maiden name, had publicly lost her sponsor, left a successful team, tried racing on her own and suffered through a nasty divorce, all in view of the general public.  Now Angelle is back on top with a new team, new sponsor and new lease on life.     

Since her days with Team Winston, when she was known as Angelle Seeling, it’s obvious that the former nurse from Louisiana has grown in more ways then one. 

During that time, Bryce’s successful Georgia-based Star Racing team, led by Angelle and her dominant Suzuki, showed the world what they could do on the track. After claiming three consecutive titles beginning in 2000, the road ahead appeared to be smooth and straight for Angelle.

It was during those halcyon days at Star Racing that Angelle met and later married former professional football player Nicky Savioe.  The couple was seen together at every race and it came as no surprise when news of their marriage was made public.  The relationship was doomed to be short-lived, however, and the way it ended came as a shock to everyone, including Angelle.  As the story of her very unhappy marriage and the abuse she suffered unfolded, Angelle’s life began to spin out of control.  The emotional pressures began to show in every aspect of her life, including her performance on the track.  Although Sampey is now back in winning form, it took a lot of time, dedication, hard work and determination.


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Her on-track rejuvenation started with the style of motorcycle she regularly straddled.

“I’m a lot more comfortable on the motorcycle,” said Sampey.  “It took a little while because I went from one style of motorcycle to the style I’m on now.  I felt like I was real stretched out on the bike.  The bike I was on with George fit me better; Dave Schultz actually built this bike and it was supposed to be for Antron then I got on it, I was really stretched-out on it.  It took while for us to change the bike around enough that I was comfortable.  It took a little time for me to get comfortable on it to where I felt like I could dive it better.  It also took some time in the very beginning to get used to being on the Army team but that didn’t take too long.  I think the difference this year, I’ve said it several times, is the way my team is getting along. 

“Every team has problems, every team has personality conflicts, but our team doesn’t.  Right now everyone is getting along so well and we are having so much fun and it makes the whole race experience for me an enjoyable one.  It’s somewhere I want to be now.  It used to be I dreaded going to the races and now I love it.  My dealership is a big part of it.  I was under so much stress with my dealership folding and going under.  I thought I was going to lose everything I owned because my business wasn’t doing well and now I have two owners on-site, full-time.   Harvey and Mike run the dealership for me now. Harvey especially, and his wife Melanie, have taken over and turned the whole place around.  Now I don’t have to worry about the dealership at all.  I don’t even think about it when I’m gone because I know they are doing what they need to do.  So that has taken a big load off. 

“I got out of a bad marriage and I’m in a great relationship now.  So many things have turned around with that.  There is so much in my life that has changed.  I’m doing so much better with everything that at the races I’m able to be more relaxed and more focused and enjoy it.”

Being relaxed and able to handle the many pressures and responsibilities of a professional rider was adding to the strain and stress of life for Sampey.  Although on the outside it seemed that she was conducting business as usual, inside and behind closed doors her life was crashing down around her.  With her new marriage on the rocks, a failing business to contend with, Sampey was at the end of the line emotionally, and it often showed. 


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“My marriage was really, really rough. It was really hard.  Fans are so quick to judge someone because they wear their feelings on the outside.  They don’t know what I was going through.   They don’t know how many screaming matches and verbally abusive fights that I was going through seconds before I was going up to the starting line.  Whether it was on the phone or in person at the race track, it was just a bad, bad situation I was having to race under.  With all that going on, and I get to the finish line and the win light would come on, you’re damn right I’m going to be emotional because I felt like I was fighting on the track and off the track for my life.  When something good like a win would happen, I would just get extremely emotional about it.  I’m not as bad as I used to be emotionally but when I win I’m very excited – very happy and full of tears. 

“My team works so hard, I’m working so hard, my team owner is working hard, everybody’s working hard.  It’s such a relief to get that win.  I live for it and love it so much.  I said it in Houston.  There are only two things in this world that would make me quit racing right now, other then some physical incapability. One would be the day my win light comes on and I don’t feel any emotions, that’s when I know it’s time to quit.  And the other is when all those naysayers who like to judge so quickly, whether they are behind their keyboards on their computers or the fans at the races who like to judge you, when they can get on my motorcycle and do a better job all around, both on the race track and off, with sponsors or whatever, when they can do a better job then me, I’ll quit racing.”

With her life looking up both on and off the track, Sampey feels it’s a daily upgrade. “It’s still a work in progress but I do feel like a whole different person over all the things I’ve gone through in the past few years,” she said. “I think God puts us through tests all the time to make us who we are.   I know all the tests I’ve been through and the troubles I’ve been through is exactly why I’m so independent and I’m so strong and I can live my life the way I’m living it all by myself.  I don’t have a family, like a husband or a child or anybody to keep me going, whether it be motivation or physical or whatever, it’s just me. 

”I think that is why I’ve had to go through all I’ve gone through, so I can wake up every morning and be determined to win.  Every time something bad happens to me, it hurts, I get upset and I’m trying to figure out why it’s happening.  It’s another test and it’s going to build more character and I’m going to get through it.”

“I know so many people that have had some problems in their life.  Whether it is a small problem or a huge problem and so often so many people will turn to drugs and alcohol and get depressed and ruin their lives over something that was totally fixable.  I don’t understand it.  I decided to reach for a higher power and grab the Bible and start praying, or find someone to talk to and it’s helped.  My advice is no matter what your problems are, I strongly believe that God will not give you more then you can handle one day at a time.  I take every problem I have ever come across in my life one day at a time.  There is nothing I can do tomorrow about the problems I have today; there is nothing I can do today about the problems I had yesterday.  I can only deal with today. 

 


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“I also believe in living like it’s your last day.  That is why I do what I do, that is why I chose race a motorcycle instead of being a nurse.  My mom has told me before and I like to live by this rule.  When she is on her death bed, it’s not going to be the things she did that she regrets, it’s going to be the things she didn’t do.”

With her personal life in check and now the Army Pro Stock Motorcycle team looking up for the 2006 season, there is little holding back Angelle Sampey.  The winning persona is back and Angelle is gunning for another championship. 

“We definitely had the potential do to do this well last year and the year before.  We just seemed to get bitten by bad luck bugs every time we’d go out there.  Whether it was electrical problems or a mechanical problem or a driver error, it was always something that was happening to stop us from winning but we definitely had the potential to do it.  This year it just seems that everything is going right.  We still had problems here and there and had some problems getting the bike to go down the track in qualifying but we’ve been able to work it out on race day.  Antron’s bike tore up a transmission in Gainesville; I tore up a transmission in Houston, so we’ve had our share of problems.  Fortunately, they are happening at the right time, if there is a right time to have problems. 

“There are never any right times to break things but better in qualifying then in a race.  When you are much more ahead of your opponent and you can still win if something goes wrong.  That is what’s been happening to us now so it seems like luck is on our side now.  Along with the rule change – it has helped out a lot to make us more competitive to the Harleys.  I still think we’re not equal to them; they still have an advantage over us but there is not as far as a gap between us anymore.  Steve Tartaglia, my crew chief, is just settling into his job a lot more now.  He’s more comfortable; I think he was under a lot of stress last year but this year he’s doing a lot better about it. 

“The team is getting along great.  We work so well together, especially with me and Antron.  There is absolutely no animosity.  We both want each other to win just as much as we want to win ourselves.  Everything is just going right and when everything goes right that way that is when the win’s come.  We are very fortunate.  I’m really determined to get the championship back.  I really believe in my heart that I can do it and I will do it.  I’m definitely going to work 10 times harder then I ever have. 


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“I’m doing everything I can to stay in shape and to stay in the right frame of mind.  I really feel positive about it this year.  I think we have what we need, we have the right team, the right sponsors, we have the right crew guys, we have the right bikes, and we have the right goals.  If I can just stay on my game and do my job on the motorcycle once the team finishes theirs, I’m the final piece of the puzzle, once I get on the bike it’s all up to me.  I’m just going to continue to do the best job I can all year long.” 

Sitting in the top spot in the Pro Stock Motorcycle, Sampey appears to be doing just that.

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