SAMPEY FINDING HER GROOVE WITH THE HARLEY
It is a tale as old as time.
Good guy goes through life doing good, is tempted by a wicked figure or an evil power, and is faced with a dilemma - stay on the path of good or stray to the dark side? You see it in everything from Greek mythology with the Sirens who lure sailors to their deaths, to Star Wars with the temptation of Luke Skywalker by his father Darth Vader.
Sometimes the good guys prevail and avoid the temptation. Other times they don’t.
That is exactly the situation that Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Angelle Sampey faced last year. Tempted from her traditional world battling the superpowers of the sport, she joined that very same superpower, giving in and joining forces with the boys at Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines to form a three-bike team with the single most dominant team in the two-wheel category over the past several years.
“I did! I joined the dark side,” Sampey said with a laugh. “I made jokes with them for the first couple of months that I would look down and see myself in a Harley-Davidson uniform and I felt like I needed to put garlic around my neck or something. It was burning me.
“It was crazy because it felt so wrong at first, but it felt so right at the same time. Now it feels like nothing but right. The only thing I feel now is regret that I didn’t do this sooner. I really wish I would have pursued this ride years ago.”
With 42 wins to her credit, Sampey is the most successful female competitor in motorsports and has undoubtedly been one of the fiercest rivals of the Harley-Davidson Vance & Hines crew over the years. Now, Sampey is featured as a showcase third rider on the Harley-Davidson Street Rod Pro Stock bike.
“I thought for sure I was going to come over here and they would take me onboard and give me a decent motorcycle, but I figured it would just be, ‘here is your motorcycle and leave us alone,’” Sampey said. “I didn’t believe that they would be so in-tune to what I need, what I want with the bike and work so hard to make it perfect for me. This is a genuine statement, they really are working on my motorcycle and my tuning and my driving as if I am the only one on the team. It is pretty amazing how they have treated me.
“We still have that little rivalry within ourselves, but they have been great. Of course, there are other times I come back to the trailer and I feel like I did better and they continue to tell me all of the things I did wrong. I’m like, ‘come on guys!’ It is good because they are pushing me really hard to be better. They have really made me feel welcome and like I am truly a part of a three-bike team, not just a little sideshow.”
Sampey, who made her professional debut in 1996 and collected three-straight championships from 2000-2002, has as much experience as anyone in the class, but admitted that the very first time she hopped on a Harley, she felt like she had started completely over in her career.
“I never thought I was going to have this much trouble. I knew it was going to be a little different, but I never dreamed it would be this different. I literally felt like I had just started racing,” Sampey said. “I don’t even remember the first couple of passes on the bike. I was so scared and so not ready for it. The bike was so much ahead of me I couldn’t keep up in my brain. My whole first test session in Phoenix was a complete blur. I really thought it wasn’t going to be that big of a deal, but it is a totally different motorcycle.
“What I thought was going to be the big issue actually wasn’t. It was the torque and how much power you have when you leave each gear. What I was used to before was it pulling really hard in first and second and a little bit in third, but this motorcycle pulls every gear as if it is first gear. I am not feeling it as much now, but it is still a learning curve each pass.”
So far in 2019, that learning curve has produced a trio of round wins and a couple of solid qualifying runs, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Still, with the Vance & Hines team behind her, Sampey is feeling as confident as ever as she tries to get back to the old days as a force to be reckoned with on the tour as she seeks her first win since 2016.
“It has just been seat time every single time down the track,” Sampey said. “I am a little more comfortable with something else and we have changed a lot of things on the motorcycle to suit me better and each time it is getting better.”