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November 16, 2016

Jerry Savoie

Glendora, California

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Jerry Savoie, the 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion and rider of the White Alligator Racing Suzuki. Jerry earned his first career world championship at the Auto Club NHRA Finals after he advanced to the semifinals while his nearest competitors were knocked out in the quarterfinals.

Jerry, do you feel like you're dreaming a little bit?

JERRY SAVOIE: Well, reality is just setting in. I mean, everything happened so fast that it only takes a few days, but if you think about all the events, the way it turned out, there's a lot of things to talk about. It's just amazing, man, that this could possibly happen.

THE MODERATOR: You didn't win in the regular season, but you got two in the Countdown. Surprisingly, you had a first-round loss and a second-round loss in the Countdown. Did you ever start to think, Oh, man, this is getting out of reach now?

JERRY SAVOIE: No. We knew going into Dallas we could run really well. We had some misfortune early on. Nobody really knew about it. We tried to keep everything a big secret. But we knew for sure that we had the bike to beat.

Here's the thing. In the past year, the Harleys would run you down. They couldn't 60 foot, but they could run you down. Now Vance & Hines has worked so hard. Eddie Krawiec and Luciano and Blake at Vance & Hines, have worked so hard to give us the power to be able to compete.

With Tim tuning the bike, everything started clicking. We knew they couldn't 60 foot with us. If they can't 60 foot with you, run you out the backdoor, you're going to win races.

THE MODERATOR: Jerry, how did you and Tim and the rest of your team really turn it on in the final three races with three No. 1's and two runner-ups?

JERRY SAVOIE: Yeah, it's an amazing thing. In Dallas we had some misfortune also. Anyway, it was an amazing thing. We knew going into Dallas what we could do. We had some misfortune in Dallas in the finals. If we would have won Dallas, we would have been way ahead in the points. We thought that would have been a good thing to go with.

We always do great at the end of the season. Tim is the best. These guys, I'm not a world champion, we are world champions, all of us, not just me. I wanted to say that the other night, but I was so scared, I didn't know what to say.

THE MODERATOR: You never led the points this season until you secured the world title. Did you feel like an underdog all year long?

JERRY SAVOIE: No, not really. We felt really strong. I'll reiterate this. In Atlanta we seized a piston against Eddie. That's pretty much why we lost the race. We had him covered. Then the wind got us in Englishtown. Had to get out of it against a hometown fellow racer, Angel. Just little odds and ends of not good things, gremlins or something in Louisiana. But it paid off, man. Look at where we're at. It's amazing.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Jerry.

Q. Jerry, I have to ask you, you became such a great story not only this year but through the last five or six years when you came back. To come back after 30 years of a layoff to build your business, to raise your family, people just don't do that. How satisfying is it for you to have such a long layoff and come back and win the ultimate prize as a champion?
JERRY SAVOIE: You know, as a young boy, a lot of people don't know, they say I never pat myself on the back and say how good I could have been or was, but as a young boy, I did pretty good at drag racing on the streets of Louisiana. Set a couple of national records. It was all good.

But the fire always burns in you. Once a drag racer, always a drag racer. Even though you don't continue racing, the fire continues burning in your body. I always wondered if I was ever good enough. It played a role on me, was I as good as Angel. Angel was a young girl growing up, she baby-sat for me. When she came up, I was like, I would only dream of doing something like that.

32 years didn't sit on a motorcycle. Later in age, worked really hard, was able financially to put together a team. A friend, Paul (indiscernible), I went and talked to him and asked him if he thought I was any good.

He said, It's never too late.

I went and called George (indiscernible), who I went to school with. Like I said at the banquet, (indiscernible) put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, Bubba, if you ride like that on race day, I promise you you're going to win one of these races. My goal was only to win one. My dream never was ever, ever, even last year, to win a championship. It was just to come out here and compete, beat up on people, try to be the best.

God has blessed me in so many ways. It's an amazing thing.

Q. Just to clarify, you say you never got on a bike for 30 years. Did you have a regular sports bike you would go out and ride?
JERRY SAVOIE: No. I had three Harley Davidsons. I still got them. One is a 1966, my father's old sportster. I have a '97 Bad Boy. I have a '98 FXR with a turbocharger on it. I love Harley Davidsons. It's not (indiscernible) for me to be racing against them, you know what I'm saying?

Q. Speaking of the Harley Davidsons, were you surprised to see them knocked out in the quarterfinals?
JERRY SAVOIE: Man, let me tell you something. Them guys never get knocked out early. I'm not sure if the pressure got to them or God came down and put his hand on me and my crew and my family and said, This is yours, you deserve it. It was really weird. We had a choice to lay low, which we've never done. Never laid low in my life. I tried to beat everyone every time. To have the ladder stacked in my favor the way it was. The two Harleys were on one side of the ladder in chute three. Then we go to chute four and make a decision to run it out the backdoor and try to be No. 1.

Then the second round end up being against Matt Smith and Angel, both of them got beat. God is watching. He probably put His hand on us and said, You guys are working really hard, we going to give it to you.

Jokingly I went back out after the media deal at Ruth's Chris on Thursday, I said, Tim, we got them, we got them boys, man.

He's like, What do you mean?

I'm going to be able to eat salmon and salad. I lost four pounds this week so we could do well. They over there eating steak and potatoes and cheesecake. I said, We got their ass so bad we don't even know it yet.

I said, They can't 60 foot with us.

It was a joke, but honestly the bottom line is unless they 60 foot with us, they cannot beat us, if I'm on my game and my bike is tuned up. So it's pretty good.

Q. Jerry, when you were at the Motoplex and qualified No. 1, you brought you're entire crew into the press center, which I thought was pretty cool actually. If you were to compare budgets with Vance & Hines and Eddie and Andrew, would you guys be in the ballpark?

Q. As far as budgets and resources.
JERRY SAVOIE: Oh, no. I mean, those guys have a lot of money. But here's the deal. It's a matter of budget and resources, that's okay. But they're building our engines. For those guys, to build your engine, then you take that engine, you sprinkle a little pixie dust on it like Tim does, we do a few things that other people don't do, to go out there and to be able to compete with that package that they give you, actually win a championship, it's amazing.

Got a little joke running around the shop at Vance & Hines, Eddie, Luciano and Blake build the engines. Andrew looks at the numbers on the dials, Is this what we got to run against this weekend? Are you kidding me?

It's pretty cool they know what's coming, they know what they have to do. They know how fast we should be running. Man, look, it's a first-class operation. A lot of people say, You don't give us, you give Jerry, whatnot. Give me any one of your engines that's fresh, not been beat up on, give us any one of your engines, and I promise you we'll make it run.

I change the valve spring every weekend. Some of those guys are running valve springs 50 runs, okay? The difference is, if you maintain your stuff, you do everything proper, you can run with them boys. But it's all got to come together.

I'm just a rider, man. Like I said before, I'll say it over and over, Tim, Jeremy, Steve, those guys are the best. They family to me. When you click like that, you got a good thing going, man, nothing can stop you.

Q. Do you go back to your alligator farm for the next few months? What is your daily schedule like now when you're not racing?
JERRY SAVOIE: Well, I come in and out of the farm pretty regular. Like I'm at the farm today. Got a little auction by the local hardware store. I'm up here buying some equipment.

Yeah, go to the farm, make sure everything's okay, start doing our normal thing. Then hunting season is right around the corner. My boy swims in the state playoffs this weekend in swimming. Then Sunday we'll leave and go to Mexico for a week.

I like to hunt and fish. I'm an outdoorsman. I'm not a killer. I do manage the ranch. It's not all about killing big bucks, but killing deer and keeping the population in check. I'm a guy that loves Mother Nature and loves birds and everything, man. I love life. Put it that way. That's the most important thing.

Q. Did I see a correct figure that your alligator farm industry is worth almost $2 million a year, is that right?

Q. Your alligator farm, does that produce like $2 million in revenue a year? Is that what that produces?
JERRY SAVOIE: No, it's more than that, but it's a good business. I mean, it's a niche. Gucci, Prada, Cartier. Here is the thing, you can make $100 million a year, it don't matter. You're not any better than the person next to you. I never think that I'm more of a person than anyone else. I think once you hold on to that and keep it, you'll be successful. But when you lose that, that's over with, you know, so... That's how I live.

Q. Jerry, this is a question that's been on my mind for the last couple of years. I know it's going to sound funny, but bear with me. We know how farmers, they raise cows, pigs, chickens. How do you farm alligators? What is the process? What do you do there?
JERRY SAVOIE: Well, it's a program we set up through the state of Louisiana where everything is permitted. You actually purchase the eggs from landowners (indiscernible). You take those eggs and incubate them and hatch them. You have the whole nine yards involved.

Pick up the eggs, hatch 'em, raise 'em, kind of like a chicken farm. They're all in water. The water is actually filtrated 24 hours a day. As they get bigger, different size for different markets, you harvest the gators, sell the skin, meat. 12% of what you hatch, 12% goes back to the wild at four feet. So you replenish the marsh, so that keeps everything going.

Q. About how large is your complex, compound, the farm? How big is it?
JERRY SAVOIE: Probably 20-acres. The water is heated to 90 degrees year-round. Never cold, so...

Q. You said you're going to Mexico. Any other big plans for the off-season?
JERRY SAVOIE: We're going to start testing. Probably going to make a hit in December with the new bike. It's going to take a while to tune the chassis. In February, from there we'll go to Bradenton, make a couple days in Bradenton. My bike should be okay. We're not going to reinvent the bike like we did last winter. It took a while to get it dialed in, and it showed. It's pretty stout now.

We'll test, make a couple hits, everything is good. Then we'll beat on LE's bike, get it good. We'll have a good 1-2 punch.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us and congratulations on a stellar season.

JERRY SAVOIE: Thank you, man. I appreciate all you guys, all the fans, my people in Louisiana. Don't ever think that Jerry Savoie doesn't take it to heart about the way people feel, what they say, the way he treats people. Drag racing is in my blood and it's in my heart. We all one big family. I love everybody.

THE MODERATOR: It's been a pleasure working with you, Jerry. We'll see you next season in Gainesville.

JERRY SAVOIE: Thank you.

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