Neil Arabie would have been proud.
Oh, he would be wanting to hear all about how his buddy Jerry Savoie won the NHRA’s AAA Texas FallNationals Pro Stock Motorcycle trophy Sunday near Dallas.
And he’d love all the juicy details.
First, he’d tease Jerry for cutting an awful .140 light on the Christmas tree.
And Jerry would tell him, “I had a .140 light. Good thing Jianna didn’t put down a good one, because I could have been in big trouble. But I knew going in I wanted to take it easy.”
Then Neil would love the story about how Jerry wound up running his own teammate, Karen Stoffer. He’d get a kick out of hearing what his buddy might have gone through, hating to beat the No. 2-ranked racer in the class and spoil her high hopes for a first championship. But he would appreciate Jerry’s honesty and the way he didn’t manipulate the system by taking a dive.
He’d be reassured when he heard Jerry’s explanation: “Yeah, well, you always think that your partner can maybe help you. But we don’t race like that. I know she was No. 2. If I was No. 2, I wouldn’t expect her to give it to me. And you know, fans say certain things that they believe what they want to believe in their own minds, but the bottom line is we race and I want a championship just as bad as anybody else. So whoever gets in my way I’m going to do what I can to beat them.”
Neil would guffaw about that. And then he’d pull his chair in a little closer to hear how Jerry beat the Harley-Davidsons. Those are the badasses of the class, and Jerry knocked them off, one by one.
But Jerry wouldn’t brag. He would quietly say he “absolutely” thinks he has a chance to catch points leader and Pro Stock Motorcycle dominator Andrew Hines in the course of the next two races, at Las Vegas in two weeks and at Pomona, Calif., two weeks after that.
Jerry would tell Neil, “Those guys are struggling. If you look at the times they ran today, they’re struggling. And I feel for them. But we’re not the ones to help them – even though they do build our engines. They do build our engines, and it’s great that these people are building your engines and you can actually outrun them. So they’ll find it in Pomona – because they always do. So it’s going to be a fight to the finish. We run good in Vegas. We’ve always run good in Vegas. I’ve been in the finals a few times. I’ve won Vegas, and it’s just great. It’s the atmosphere. It kind of calms your nerves. I don’t gamble so it’s a good race.”
Oh, but Neil would say, “You beat two Harley-Davidsons on your White Alligator Suzuki! You beat Eddie Karawiec, and he was making his 10th final round and overdue for a victory. You showed ’em all, showed everybody a Suzuki can keep up with the Street Rods. And you were in your fifth final in a row at Texas Motorplex.”
Jerry would say simply, “It was a great day. We knew we had a good bike coming in. Last two races we had a good bike and some misfortunes and didn’t win. But we said if we hold our composure and come out here this weekend that we can win this thing. It’s funny how if you look back on all the notes and all the tracks and all the races that everybody wins. Andrew in Charlotte, he’s pretty much unstoppable. We get in there once in a while and get one from him, but for the most part, tracks favor certain riders. And we’ve been blessed over here. I don’t know if it’s because I feel at home. I had my motorhome here. I get a better night’s sleep. A lot of that has to do with it. But for the most part it’s a great place and today was a great day.”
It was nearly perfect, although this conversation never could have happened. The facts are there. But Neil Arabie isn’t. He lost his fight against cancer. And Jerry Savoie dedicated his victory to Neil Arabie.
In an emotional moment at the top end of the racetrack after his .004 reaction time led to a winning 6.881-second elapsed time at 195.90 mph (against Krawiec’s 6.901, 195.62), Savoie explained:
“A friend of mine, Neil Arabie, has been fighting cancer for about five or six years. He was always commenting where we would race and when and whatnot and go get him. He’s a friend of the family. We were all raised together pretty much and he was a great guy. Self-employed, had his own business and he lost his fight about two weeks ago. Great guy. And I’m going to order an extra trophy and bring it to his family. He loved drag racing, and he was always watching and so I know he’s watching today.”
After all, Neil Arabie knew Savoie beat Krawiec in 2015, lost to him in 2016 and 2017, and beat him Sunday.
“To me this win gives you more hope. I mean, we were struggling and we knew Andrew had to go out and it kind of gives you that window of opportunity where you could win a championship again. We have a good motorcycle, and it means a lot,” Savoie said.
“A couple people called after one of the interviews and talking about am I sick. They ask my brother if I’m OK, because I’m always talking like ‘Hey, you never know when it’s your last one.’ When you’re 60 years old and you’re thinking about retiring, you never know when it’s going to be your last race. You never know. So every win for me is heartfelt,” he said. “Last year, I won one race. So when’s the next win going to come? We went through Gainesville. We went to Atlanta. I went to the finals in Atlanta. It’s like you keep coming up short. So when’s it going to be? I’m not going to be out here forever. So I want my last one to be special. So this might be it.”
And the eyes of Texas were upon him. And so, he’s pretty sure, were the eyes of Neil Arabie.