Super Spoiler Johnson, Wave Riding Savoie at Gateway

When Jerry Savoie and his White Alligator Racing Suzuki picked up their second consecutive Pro Stock Motorcycle win last time out at Maple Grove, it was Steve Johnson in the other lane for the final. What’s exceptionally significant about that is that Johnson isn’t in the Countdown to the Championship—that means that his 3 round wins worth of points weren’t available for someone who is.
And now Johnson has followed that up taking provisional #1 qualifier here at Gateway—site of his first-ever win—and again blocking someone in the Countdown from vital qualifying—AKA “small”—points. Johnson’s 6.838 at 196 mph leads #2 Andrew Hines by a whopping 4 hun+. It will be Johnson’s first #1 qualifier since 2013 if it holds up, and the fourth in his career. Eddie Krawiec is a spot behind Hines with a 6.884 at 196.70, while Savoie is seventh with a 6.908 at 196.62.
Check out a very entertaining video of Johnson’s press room video:
“Good thing we were on our game at Maple Grove, ’cause that (Johnson’s performance) was a shock to everybody,” Savoie said last week. “I told somebody on Saturday, ‘The only racer I hate to face out here is Steve Johnson. He’s a wild card that you never know what you’re going to get with that crazy sucker! You can get a 6.95 or a 6.75. He’s badass.”
That badassery helped propel Savoie from fifth after Indy to the points lead going into Gateway. “We had a lot of help (in the points) at Maple Grove, and you can thank Steve for that. That son of a gun knocked out Matt Smith, knocked out Hector (Arana) Jr. It couldn’t have been a more perfect scenario. And with Steve not getting any points—that was real huge. I told Tim (WAR tuner Tim Kulungian) ‘We oughta pay for his diesel to make sure he goes to the next race!’
“I’m thankful to Steve. I went up to him (after the final) and said ‘I know it hurts, trust me, I know.’ I went to the finals nine times before I got my first one, so my heart goes out to him. I know how it feels.”
The three deadly Harleys were trailered in the quarterfinals at Maple Grove, two of those courtesy of WAR—Krawiec by Karen Stoffer and Hines by Savoie.
“It was just a great, great day for everyone. My whole team. I don’t take any of this credit. Tim and everybody on the team worked their butts off and here we are. I didn’t count on making the top 10 because I took three races off. And, bam! Here we are. No one, not even myself expected this.”
Check out Kulungian’s very informative Pro Stock Motorcycle school session here at Gateway today:
Savoie’s riding has been on point—cutting lights, hitting spot-on shift points, tucked and straight in the groove. He’s making it look easy and we all know it isn’t. “There was one run, mighta been Q4, the bike kinda went to the left a little bit and I just bumped it to the right a little bit. Bobby Webb said to John Hall ‘Did you see that John?’ John was like ‘What?’ ‘Did you see that move? That was one of the slickest moves I’ve seen!’ He said to me ‘That was so smooth. It wasn’t like you moved the bike around, you just moved around a little bit and the bike went whoop! and right down the groove.’ I said ‘I wish I could see it, ’cause all I do is feel it and I don’t know what it looks like.'”

There are still a lot of moves to make and a long road of Countdown ahead for Savoie and the WAR team

“We’re not gonna count our chickens before they’re hatched, trust me. This was just one race. We’re gonna just keep on plugging away, man. Tim’s gonna keep working, and I can’t say enough about Vance & Hines—those guys are great. We were having some problems (mostly with the crankshafts), and evidently they’ve fixed it. So the power is back, and we’re just gonna go out there and have fun. That’s the main thing.”

Jerry Savoie and Andrew Hines in Gateway qualifying

Savoie thinks the Harleys just missed the tune-up at Maple Grove. “Look, when the weather got cool that night, it came to them. Angelle went a .76, Andrew went a .77. It was there. Look at Steve Johnson—he dropped four numbers in the final round and went an .80. They (the Harleys) just missed it.”

After the races that Savoie missed in the middle of the season, many are shocked at the performance he and his bike are showing—with some accusations of sandbagging. “Sandbagging? We went to the finals at Atlanta, the semis in Denver, and went rounds in Sonoma.”

Savoie’s hot streak started under the camera’s glare at Indy

Hall road the bike for the races that Savoie took off and fell in love with the bike. “I never wanna ride any other motorcycle ever again after riding that bike,” said Johnny Balls.

“John said something like ‘Hey, when you gonna give my bike back?'” said Savoie. “I said ‘If they can you ride as fast as I can!’

“Look, mentally I feel good, physically I feel good, I’m ready to roll.”

Savoie has done all this after breaking a front tooth on a peppercorn in a piece of pizza. The NHRA Safety Safari and TV crew had some fun at Savoie’s expense at Maple Grove, blacking out a tooth and all smiling at him on the top end.”

With this winning stretch he’s got going, Savoie may not want to get a tooth put back. Let’s hope the look doesn’t spread throughout the pits.
Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the eighth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway, 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.
Johnson’s lap:

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.838, 196.02; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.879, 195.85; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.884, 196.70; 4. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.886, 195.76; 5. Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 6.897, 194.80; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, EBR, 6.908, 196.79; 7. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.908, 196.62; 8. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.910, 197.94; 9. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.955, 197.59; 10. Hector Arana, EBR, 6.961, 195.76; 11. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.963, 195.93; 12. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.998, 192.71; 13. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 7.021, 195.25; 14. Andie Rawlings, Suzuki, 7.140, 185.05; 15. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 7.209, 185.92; 16. Michael Ray, Victory, 7.488, 146.48.

Top Fuel’s Billy Torrence put together a no-parachute, brake-blistering pass of 3.699 at 321.88 in his Capco Contractors dragster to move into the top spot. It would be Torrence’s second No. 1 qualifier this season and third in his career if it holds. A spot behind sits his son, Steve, who is the defending race winner and world champ. The younger Torrence, who won eight races in the regular season, went 3.711 at 325.85, while Top Fuel rookie Austin Prock’s 3.726 at 328.94 has him third. Points leader Doug Kalitta is fifth after his run of 3.743 at 323.58.

Top Fuel — 1. Billy Torrence, 3.699 seconds, 321.88 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.717, 325.85; 3. Austin Prock, 3.726, 328.94; 4. Mike Salinas, 3.728, 327.90; 5. Doug Kalitta, 3.743, 323.58; 6. Antron Brown, 3.764, 323.04; 7. Scott Palmer, 3.771, 322.73; 8. Pat Dakin, 3.785, 325.45; 9. Leah Pritchett, 3.794, 322.27; 10. Terry McMillen, 3.804, 315.93; 11. Richie Crampton, 3.867, 312.86; 12. T.J. Zizzo, 3.900, 261.07; 13. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.945, 296.31; 14. Clay Millican, 3.971, 247.47; 15. Cameron Ferre, 3.973, 301.20; 16. Brittany Force, 4.055, 228.11. Not Qualified: 17. Luigi Novelli, 5.874, 103.27; 18. Chris Karamesines, 6.338, 92.86; 19. Lex Joon, 7.593, 90.60.

Returning to the site where he broke his collarbone during a crash just past the finishline in the final round a year ago, Robert Hight put together an outstanding run of 3.877-seconds at 334.90 mph in his AAA Missouri Chevrolet Camaro SS on Friday. Hight, the defending event champ, is racing for his ninth No. 1 qualifier of 2019 and 69th in his standout career as he looks to regain the points lead in St. Louis. Bob Tasca III is currently in the second spot thanks to his run of 3.904 at 324.98, while John Force is a spot back after going 3.911 at 329.18. Points leader Jack Beckman is in fourth with a run of 3.916 at 329.99.

“We had high hopes,” Hight said. “We made four really good runs testing, and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock was not going to let this thing slow down. That’s not how you’re going to win a championship and it’s not what you need in the Countdown. It was pretty exciting and to do it in AAA country and at my sponsor’s race, that’s a good way to shine and show off. We need to keep gathering up those little qualifying points. That’s going to put us back in the ballgame.”

Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.877, 334.90; 2. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.904, 324.98; 3. John Force, Camaro, 3.911, 329.18; 4. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.916, 329.99; 5. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.921, 327.66; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.938, 326.63; 7. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 3.939, 319.90; 8. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.940, 329.83; 9. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.940, 328.62; 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.949, 309.91; 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.012, 323.50; 12. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.036, 310.98; 13. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.038, 314.90; 14. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.047, 314.97; 15. Bob Bode, Mustang, 4.212, 275.11; 16. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.232, 285.11. Not Qualified: 17. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.258, 237.05; 18. Jack Wyatt, 7.335, 98.44.

In Pro Stock Car, Erica Enders continued her impressive performance in qualifying during the Countdown to the Championship, going 6.580 at 207.15 in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Enders is aiming for her second straight No. 1 qualifier and 21st of her career. The two-time world champ is also after her first win of the year. Deric Kramer is second with a run of 6.585 at 209.20 and Bo Butner is third with his 6.586 at 208.17. Points leader Jason Line sits sixth after Friday’s two sessions with a 6.593 at 209.14.

Pro Stock Car — 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.580, 207.15; 2. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.585, 209.20; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.586, 208.17; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.588, 207.82; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.589, 207.62; 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.593, 209.14; 7. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.597, 206.76; 8. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.603, 208.10; 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.617, 208.88; 10. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.622, 208.10; 11. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.625, 208.78; 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.633, 208.42; 13. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.654, 207.56; 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.659, 207.50; 15. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.661, 205.04; 16. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 6.673, 205.88. Not Qualified: 17. Fernando Cuadra Jr., 6.684, 206.86; 18. Steve Graham, 6.686, 207.46; 19. Robert River, 6.843, 202.73.

story, photos and video by Tim Hailey with help from NHRA

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