DEJORIA CLOSES WITH A FLOURISH
Takes ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry to the Semifinals at Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Buoyed by an impressive late season run that included semifinal appearances in three of the last four races in an abbreviated NHRA Camping World championship series, Alexis DeJoria left The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday counting down the days until the 2021 season opener.
After qualifying third and once more taking her ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry to the semifinals, the former U.S. Nationals Funny Car champion ran afoul of newly-crowned series champ Matt Hagan, who prematurely ended her bid in the 20th annual Dodge Finals.
Although she failed to add a third LVMS victory to her resume, the Texas resident nevertheless was exhilarated by her car’s consistency over the last wo months during which she put together the best five-race qualifying performance of her professional career.
Over the final five events in an NHRA season abbreviated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the five-time pro tour winner qualified fifth, second, fifth, fifth and third. Her Toyota consistently has been the quickest Funny Car not running out of the Don Schumacher Racing stable.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” DeJoria said of a team anchored by co-crew chiefs Del Worsham and Nicky Boninfante. “We really came together as a team. It sucks that this is the last race but I’m beyond excited about the 2021 season. So, to Toyota, ROKiT Phones, ABK Beer and all the people that support us, thank you so much. Can’t wait to get this car back in the winners’ circle.”
The No. 3 qualifier behind only finalists Hagan and Ron Capps, DeJoria stopped Terry Haddock in round one with a solid 3.982 before improving to 3.930 in a quarterfinal victory over Blake Alexander to the utter delight of her father, John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products.
Although DeJoria won just four rounds in the season’s first seven races, she went 7-4 down the stretch to lock up the No. 8 position in Funny Car points, thereby realizing her pre-season goal of securing a Top 10 finish in her return to pro racing after a two-year absence.
DEJORIA BETTING ON A BIG FINISH
Five-Time Tour Winner Drives ROKiT/ABK Toyota on Her Favorite Track
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – With earlier mechanical issues apparently resolved, Alexis DeJoria and her ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry loom as the biggest threat to the continued Funny Car dominance of Don Schumacher Racing this week when an abbreviated version of the NHRA Camping World tour speeds to a close at the 20th annual Dodge Finals.
Contested at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a track on which DeJoria has enjoyed her greatest success, the series finale provides the five-time tour winner and her crew chiefs, Del Worsham and Nicky Boninfante, an opportunity to show off what they’ve learned in a season meant to lay the foundation for a serious championship run in 2021.
“Words can’t describe how much I’m looking forward to this weekend with this Toyota and this race team on that racetrack,” she said.
Her enthusiasm is understandable. Over the last four races, she has qualified no worse than fifth while twice taking the distinctive red-and-black Camry to the semifinals, all of that despite a supercharger explosion at St. Louis and a catastrophic engine failure at Dallas that seriously impacted the team’s parts inventory.
With those issues behind her, the 2014 U.S. Nationals champion sped last week to the quickest time of the entire event at Houston (3.874 seconds) while accelerating to a finish line speed of 330.39 miles per hour, her best since returning to the tour this season after a two-year absence.
The Houston performance, Worsham and Boninfante’s ability to diagnose and positively address the mechanical issues and DeJoria’s history of Vegas success suggest that if anyone can stop the Schumacher juggernaut (which has delivered 13 straight Funny Car victories dating to 2019), it is the woman in the ROKiT Camry.
After all, she earned two of her five pro tour victories at The Strip, winning the spring race in both 2014 and 2016. Furthermore, LVMS is the only track on which she has reached the finals in both the Top Alcohol Funny Car and nitro Funny Car classes (she was the TAFC runner-up at the fall race in 2009).
DEJORIA RIDES A ROKiT TO SEMIFINALS
BAYTOWN, Texas (Houston) – Alexis DeJoria’s season seems to be winding down just as her ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry is cranking up.
The five-time NHRA pro tour winner enjoyed her best outing of the shortened season Sunday at Houston Raceway Park where she recorded the event’s quickest time before dropping a semifinal decision to Ron Capps at the 33rd annual Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals.
The No. 5 qualifier at 3.958 seconds, the Texas resident got everyone’s attention in round one when she unloaded a best-of-the-race 3.874 at a whopping 330 miles per hour to get the best of multiple-time tour winner Tim Wilkerson. After dispatching Bob Tasca III in round two and getting a starting line advantage against Ron Capps in the semis, she had her run aborted by crew chief Del Worsham.
“It was shooting fire out of number four cylinder,” said Worsham who, during his driving career, was one of only to win NHRA Championships in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car divisions. “It sucks, but after the last two races, we can’t take any chances.”
Worsham, who was a three-time Houston winner from inside the cockpit, was alluding to mechanical issues that led to a supercharger failure at St. Louis and an engine fire at Dallas, both of which played havoc with the team’s parts inventory.
“It’s really bittersweet,” DeJoria said of Sunday’s performance. “We’re finally figuring out the car and the combination but now we’re down to the last race of the year (this week’s 30th Dodge Nationals in Las Vegas). But I’m stoked about going back to Vegas. I’ve had some good days there (including wins in 2014 and 2016).”
The semifinal finish equaled DeJoria’s best finish at Houston where she also reached the penultimate round in 2013.
20th Dodge Finals
Oct. 31-Nov. 1
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
The ROKiT Report with Alexis DeJoria
Driver of the ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer/Lucas Oil Toyota Camry Funny Car
Event: 33rd annual Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals
Site: Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, Texas
Qualifying position: No. 5 at 3.958 seconds, 308.21 miles per hour.
Qualifying bonus points: 1 for third quick time in Q1.
Race day results: Round 1, Alexis DeJoria, 3.874 seconds, 330.39 mph, def. Tim Wilkerson, 5.426 seconds, 132.70 mph; Quarterfinals, Alexis DeJoria, 3.912 seconds, 323.19 mph, def. Bob Tasca III, 3.970, 296.96 mph; Semifinals, Alexis DeJoria, 5.175 seconds, 142.10 mph, lost to Ron Capps, 4.160 seconds, 247.38 mph.
Perspective: For the second consecutive weekend, Alexis put up her best numbers of the season, muscling the ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry through the 1,000 foot timers in 3.874 seconds at 330.39 mph in a first round win over Tim Wilkerson.