Luling native, racing icon in new role

Record-setting motorcyclist still competes, but overseeing her own ‘Team Liberty’

Angelle Sampey had seemingly done it all in the world of motorcycle racing, yet she has managed to find a new, exciting challenge to tackle. Sampey, a Luling native, is one of Pro Stock Motorcycle’s winningest competitors, earning 42 event victories and an all-time class record 45 top-qualifier awards. She has tallied the most wins for any female in both NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) competition and in professional motorsports as a whole. She is a three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle World Champion.

She still has that burning desire to win on the track. That said, she now does it under her own banner: Sampey has branched out to form her own racing team along with teammate Cory Reed, the two branding the squad “Team Liberty Racing.”

Sampey left her established team, Star Racing, to establish Team Liberty, where she is team manager in addition to being an active competitor.

She met Reed in 2015, when he trained with Sampey’s first team. In 2016, they became teammates. Reed comes from a family of racers, including his parents, brother and aunt. After suffering some injuries, he began looking into the prospect of forming his own racing team.

“He got hurt several times and, you know, he was in the hospital for back and neck injuries,” Sampey said. “His mom wanted him to follow his passion, but she also wanted him to be with her.”

Sampey, 46, retired after the 2008 season, but returned to her former team in 2014 after they asked her to fill in for another driver on the team — once she got back into the flow of driving again, she couldn’t stay away.

Reed asked Sampey to join him, and she liked the idea, though at first she didn’t know if he intended on her coming aboard as a competitor or simply as team manager.

“I would have been fine … at that point, I didn’t care if I raced or not. But then he said ‘no, I want you to race too.’ It’s definitely different, being the team manager now,” Sampey said. “Before all I did, I’d get on the plane, go to the race, come back home and live my life. Now, I’m consumed with the team. But it’s all so worthwhile.”

Building a racing team from the ground up and molding it into a force isn’t an overnight process, though Sampey says it is a rewarding one. Team Liberty has qualified in each of its first four races.

“Everything we do is coming from us,” Sampey said. “Each person on our team is responsible for our success. I’m so proud … in our first race, we barely qualified, but we were so proud to get in. In the past, it was kind of, ‘oh my god, we’re only the No. 13 qualifier. We’re nothing to talk about.’ But now, 13, it’s nothing but pride. Our performance is not the same (as her first team) yet, but we’re getting there.”

The name “Team Liberty” was spawned by some of the blowback she received after announcing her intention to leave Star Racing

“We went with Team Liberty, because myself, and Ken (Johnson) and Derrell (Mullis, fellow former Star Racing team members now with Team Liberty) all raced for our former team and when we left, a lot of people got mad. ‘How can you do that? Where’s the loyalty? My answer is always, I gave 20 years of my life to this sport and 13 to this race team. They’re the ones who called me to come back. So, at this time of my life, I’m at liberty to do what I want. Ken gave 25 years to that team, and he’s at liberty to do whatever he wants. So  hey, we’ll be Team Liberty.’”

Sampey began racing as a teen, noting she’s “been obsessed with motorcycles” since she was 15 years old and started racing dirt bikes with her brother.

“I think in my dad’s mind, he really saw my brother as the professional racer in the family, and he was certainly talented enough to take the path he wanted to go on,” Sampey said. “But I had such a burning fire inside me for it. I don’t know where it came from, or why, but it’s all I wanted. All I could think about was racing, riding motorcycles. I could hear them coming from a mile away.”

By the time she went pro, she was a natural. After turning pro, she won her fourth race—qualifying for it with the No. 1 time and resetting what was then a world record.

From there, Sampey’s star began to truly shine. She began receiving calls to appear on television and earned a major sponsorship, and from there her career took off in a big way.

After 14 years in the sport, she retired. She got married to her now husband, Seth, and then gave life to their child, Ava.

“In my mind, I was done,” Sampey said. “I was really enjoying family life. We started our own business and life was good.”

But eventually, she found her way back. Last year, she captured her 42nd career victory. The trophy from that race sits in Ava’s playroom, below  a sign that reads, “Dreams only work if you do.” Sampey has always been extremely competitive, but that most recent victory gave her a different feeling than she was used to.

“I dedicated the win to my daughter because it felt like it was her I was doing it for now,” Sampey said. “Before, it was all about me. I was so obsessed with winning for myself, but what’s important to me now is to show my daughter what she’s capable of. Not on a motorcycle … I don’t really care for her to race the motorcycle, but I  want her to be successful in whatever she wants to do. I try to teach her that through hard work, determination, passion and believing in yourself, no matter what it is you want to do, you can do it.”

She said she also began to understand, for the first time through Ava, why people have called her a role model to other women.

“I never understood or appreciated that before, because always, to me, once I put on that helmet you can’t see my face and the motorcycle doesn’t care if you’re a man or a woman,” she said. “Now, I do, because of my little girl. She looks up to me, sees what I’m doing and she’s proud of me.

“I know there weren’t a whole bunch of girls doing this when I first came along, now there’s a ton of them. I do feel like I had something to do with that, and I’m very proud of that.”

 

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