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In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Jerry Savoie earned his first career world championship after he advanced to the semifinals while his nearest contenders, Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, were knocked out in the quarterfinals. Savoie, rider of the White Alligator Racing Suzuki, came into the final event just three points behind Line and Anderson, who were tied for the lead.
“To only dream of winning one race and to come out here and put a deal together with the support of Vance & Hines and my crew and to win the championship is amazing,” said Savoie, who won two races and notched four runner-ups. “I went to church this morning and the word was ‘encouragement’ and to get encouraged from the people that inspire you. I want to thank everybody, especially the fans. Without these guys, this would not be possible; you make our dreams come true, and those guys are my family.”
Savoie made his championship intentions known early in the season by racing to runner-up finishes in Atlanta and Englishtown, N.J. The alligator farmer entered the Countdown to the Championship fourth in points but suffered a first round loss in Charlotte, N.C., and fell to sixth. After that upset, Savoie and his team hit their stride and went on to win at St. Louis and Las Vegas and post a runner-up finish in Dallas. He was also the No. 1 qualifier at three consecutive events at the end of the season.
Angelle Sampey, in her last race for the Star Racing team before moving to the new Y-Not team with Cory Reed, ran 6,900/194.2 to defeat the new champion’s 6.948/193.85 in the semifinal.
Matt Smith earned his first victory of the season and the first for Victory Motorcycles when Angelle Sampey went red in the final round. Smith knew the victory was in the bag, so he pulled in the clutch and pumped his first in the air as he went down the track.
"You don't realize how much you miss being in victory lane until you get back to victory lane," a smiling Smith said. "To get a victory for Victory - I like that saying. Hopefully we can do it more next year. I know we are going to have some teammates with Victory next year, and I'm just glad we got to do it first."
Smith and his Matt Smith Racing team brought the Victory Motorcycles brand into the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in 2015, and he went to two final rounds last year and two semifinal appearances this season before finally breaking through with a victory for Victory.
The victory also snapped a three-year losing streak for Smith, who last won at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October 2013. Smith clinched his second Pro Stock Motorcycle championship by winning the race that day.
Sunday, Smith had an eventful day to earn his 18th career victory. He beat Hector Arana Sr. in the first round when Arana Sr. went red, and Smith won with a slower 6.916-second pass at 193.35 mph (Arana completed his pass and went 6.871 seconds at 196.62 mph).
Smith then helped Jerry Savoie clinch the 2016 championship by taking out Eddie Krawiec in Round 2. Smith's .029-second reaction time and run of 6.904 seconds at 192.99 mph was enough to beat Krawiec's 6.871-second pass at 195.31 mph - after a .063 light.
Smith then faced Hector Arana Jr. in the semifinals, and a stellar .018 light gave him a big advantage on the starting line, as Arana Jr. had a .116 light. Arana Jr. pulled the clutch in and coasted to a 7.569-second pass at 134.10 mph, while Smith sped to the final with a run of 6.946 seconds at 192.44 mph.
The final was over early, when Sampey left .020 seconds too soon. Smith's run of 8.044 seconds at 117.34 mph included a celebration down the track.
"I'm glad this season is over even though the last two races we turned the corner and started running well with the bike,” Smith said, “I just wish it had been 14 races earlier. But you can't change the past, all you can do is regroup for the future."
Final Point Standings (top 10)
1. Antron Brown, 2,663; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,533; 3. Steve Torrence, 2,482; 4. J.R. Todd, 2,455; 5. Shawn Langdon, 2,443; 6. Brittany Force, 2,399; 7. Leah Pritchett, 2,389; 8. Tony Schumacher, 2,387; 9. Richie Crampton, 2,279; 10. Clay Millican, 2,264.
1. Ron Capps, 2,605; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,553; 3. Matt Hagan, 2,493; 4. John Force, 2,486; 5. Jack Beckman, 2,480; 6. Courtney Force, 2,414; 7. Del Worsham, 2,406; 8. Robert Hight, 2,368; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,314; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 2,184.
1. Jason Line, 2,639; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,636; 3. Shane Gray, 2,492; 4. Bo Butner, 2,453; 5. Vincent Nobile, 2,449; 6. Drew Skillman, 2,424; 7. Chris McGaha, 2,327; 8. Allen Johnson, 2,277; 9. Erica Enders, 2,239; 10. Jeg Coughlin, 2,208.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Jerry Savoie, 2,595; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2,571; 3. Andrew Hines, 2,564; 4. Angelle Sampey, 2,495; 5. Chip Ellis, 2,415; 6. Matt Smith, 2,389; 7. LE Tonglet, 2,372; 8. Hector Arana Jr, 2,315; 9. Cory Reed, 2,312; 10. Hector Arana, 2,279.