Angelle Sampey, who is the winningest female in professional motorsports history, is hanging up her helmet and leathers as she has announced her retirement as a professional drag racer.
Sampey, who totaled 41 victories during a 13-year NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle career, said she's planning to pursue other career opportunities while looking to start a family with her fiance, Seth Drago.
"I'm ready for a new challenge, including opening Coral Fever, a store specializing in fish, coral and aquariums," said the 39-year-old. "I made the ultimate sacrifice to postpone starting a family when I began racing. Now, I'm going to make the ultimate sacrifice to stop racing to get married (in June) and then try and start a family."
The Louisiana native made her NHRA debut in 1996 at Bandimere Speedway outside of Denver and immediately raised eyebrows by advancing to the semifinals. She recorded her first win in her first final round later that season at Reading, Pa., in the fourth event of her career.
"I will take away so many great memories from racing," she said. "I'm certainly going to miss being around my fellow racers and, of course, the fans. I really enjoyed meeting the fans at every race. They were always there for me through the good times and the bad times." To be sure, Sampey did not experience many bad times since '96. In fact, she captured three world championships and banked 18 wins between 2000 and 2002.
"Obviously, that was an extraordinarily exciting time period," she said. "I never imagined I could have that kind of success. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of talented people including George Bryce (her crew chief during each championship season)."
It was in 2001 when Sampey became the winningest female in NHRA history, moving past Shirley Muldowney on the list. She went on to pocket seven wins that season which remains the most wins ever recorded in a single season by a female competitor in NHRA history."To be honest, it was tough to comprehend what I had done after I surpassed Shirley's win total (18)," Sampey added. "After all, Shirley is one of the sport's legends. I look up to her."
Among Sampey's final stats will be a staggering 364 round wins out of 506 total rounds of competition or a win roughly 72 percent of the time she blasted down the quarter-mile.
"Again, I want to emphasize that I had a bunch of people help me along the way," she related. "I could spend a day or more thanking each and every one. I'll never forget any of them."
Perhaps, the one mark Sampey wishes she could have broken before exiting the sport was the most wins in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class – 45 – as established by the late Dave Schultz. "That's probably true," she said. "I clearly could've hung around just to try and break that record. But, as I stated, it's time for a change."