News/Race Reports

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Two days after celebrating her birthday aboard a 2,800 horsepower cigarette boat, Alexis DeJoria will slip into something far more powerful, but less seaworthy, when she sends the ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry after the Funny Car championship in this week’s pandemic-delayed 51st annual NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

At the wheel of one of the world’s fastest racing vehicles, one capable of zero-to-100 mile per hour acceleration in less than one second, DeJoria is attempting to regain the form that from 2014 to 2017 carried her to five tour victories and established her as the woman most likely to break through the sport’s last major gender barrier.

That’s because after coming back from injuries suffered in a 2016 crash at Sonoma, Calif., to win the 2017 Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd, Minn., she decided to take a break from racing for the first time in 12 years.

“I honestly knew deep down when I made the announcement (to step away after seven pro seasons) that it was going to be sort of an open-ended retirement,” she said. “I was blessed to spend time with my family during the two years off, but I’m beyond exited to be back out here.” 

While women have won series championships in drag racing’s Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes, none has hoisted the Mello Yello trophy in Funny Car. DeJoria, who prides herself on having excelled at every level of competition, aims to be the first. 

Nevertheless, the Texas resident, daughter of entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria, a co-founder of John Paul Mitchell hair care Systems and currently a partner in the ROK Group, had no illusions about the current campaign.

“We knew we weren’t ready to race for the championship,” she said. “This season was about making more runs and getting more data and getting everyone ready for next year.”

Alexis DeJoria at Gainesville

Unfortunately, the game plan devised by DeJoria and her crew chiefs, Del Worsham and Nicky Boninfante, ran afoul of the governmental restrictions imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Instead of the 24 races that typically comprise an NHRA racing season, there will be only 11 this year. That means that instead of the typical 130-150 straight-line laps in a season from which Worsham and Boninfante could extract data, they will have to make do with less than 50.

“We’ve made progress,” DeJoria said, “but now that we think we have a car Del and Nicky can work with, there are only five races left. That makes it kind of bittersweet.”

Although the Gatornationals is one of the events she has yet to win, DeJoria should benefit from the experience of her crew chiefs, especially Worsham who won the Gators in 2004 as a driver and who, during his career behind the wheel, became one of only three to win NHRA championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car (along with Kenny Bernstein and Gary Scelzi).

DeJoria’s relationship with Worsham, with whom she is partnered in the new race team, dates to her transition from alcohol to nitro. She earned her fuel Funny Car license in Worsham’s car in 2010 and after the veteran served his first stint as her crew chief in 2013, she was his teammate at Kalitta Racing during a 2014 season during which she won the Labor Day U.S. Nationals, the world’s most prestigious single event. 


ROKiT-
ING Ahead

NHRA Mello Yello Series

Remaining 2020 Events 

Oct. 4 23rd AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals St. Louis, Mo.

Oct. 18 35th AAA Texas FallNationals Dallas, Texas

Oct. 25 33rd Mopar Express Lane Spring Nationals Houston, Texas

Nov. 1 20th Dodge Finals Las Vegas, Nev.

 

Alexis DeJoria at Gainesville 

The ROKiT Report with Alexis DeJoria

Driver of the ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer/Lucas Oil Toyota Camry Funny Car

Event: 51st annual Amalie NHRA Gatornationals

Site: Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla.

Career starts: 6

No. 1 Qualifier: 0

Final Rounds: 0

Wins: 0

Won-Lost record: 3-6

2012 10. Beat John Force; lost to Jack Beckman

2013 10. Beat Blake Alexander; lost to Johnny Gray

2014 14. Lost Jack Beckman

2015 11. Beat Matt Hagan; lost to John Hale

2016 11. Lost Matt Hagan

2017 11. Lost Ron Capps

2018 Did Not Compete

2019 Did Not Compete

Current Funny Car Driver Standings

(After six of 11 events)

1. Jack Beckman, Norco, Calif., Infinite Hero Dodge 517

2. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar/Pennzoil Dodge 482

3.Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., M.D. Anderson Hospital Dodge 460

4. J.R. Todd, Indianapolis, Ind., DHL Toyota 387

5. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Dodge 376

6. Bob Tasca III, Cranston, R.I., Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford 355

7. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford 348

8. Alexis DeJoria, Austin, Texas, ROKiT/ABK Beer Toyota Camry 241

9. Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Snap-on Tools Dodge 234

10. Paul Lee, Orange, Calif., Global Electronic Technology Dodge 225

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2014 Champ Can’t Capitalize on Strong Qualifying Performance in ROKiT/ABK Toyota 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The frustration continued Sunday for 2014 U.S. Nationals Funny Car Champion Alexis DeJoria who, after a solid qualifying performance, saw her ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry succumb to a parts failure just as it was starting to distance itself from the Ford Mustang of No. 11 qualifier Bob Bode.

Bode won in 4.034 seconds after a burned piston in the Toyota triggered an on-board safety system that automatically shut down the 11,000 horsepower engine, leaving DeJoria powerless on the track and left to ponder what might have been. She coasted across the finish in 4.924 seconds at 156.41 miles per hour, almost a full second off her qualifying time.

“We can’t buy any luck right now,” lamented co-crew chief Del Worsham, DeJoria’s partner in DC Motorsports. “The car had been running great.” 

Indeed, after DeJoria laid down qualifying runs of 3.932 (fourth best in Q1), 4.111 and 3.948 seconds, Worsham and tuning partner Nicky Boninfante had the car set up very conservatively for the first round with the expectation that it would deliver another mid-3.90. What happened instead was totally unexpected.

A five-time pro tour winner, DeJoria is back in competition this year after a two-year hiatus. She is seeking her first tour victory since winning the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd, Minn., on Aug. 20, 2017.

Next up for DeJoria is the 51st annual Amalie Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., Sept. 26-27.  

NEXT RACE

51st annual Amalie NHRA Gatornationals
Sept. 26-27, 2020
Gainesville Raceway
Gainesville, Fla.


The
 ROKiT Report with Alexis DeJoria

Driver of the ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer/Lucas Oil Toyota Camry Funny Car

Event: 66th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals

Site: Lucas Oil Raceway, Indianapolis

Qualifying position: No. 6 at 3.932 seconds, 326.48 mph

Qualifying bonus points: None 

Race day results: Despite a slight starting line advantage, lost to No. 11 qualifier Bob Bode of Deer Park, Ill., in the first round, 4.924 at 156.41 for the ROKiT/ABK Camry; 4.034 at 285.65 for the Bode Ford Mustang.

Perspective: Despite the disappointment of a first round exit, Alexis remained eighth in the Mello Yello driver standings. 

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Drives ROCKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry at 66th U.S. Nationals at Indy 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – During the two years in which she abandoned the seat of her 330 mile-an-hour Toyota Funny Car to spend more time with her teenage daughter, Isabella, Alexis DeJoria learned some things about herself. 

Mainly what she learned is that, for her, drag racing is not a spectator sport. 

That’s why, when qualifying begins Friday in the 66th annual Denso U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, the 42-year-old resident of Austin, Texas will be strapped firmly back into the cockpit of the ROCKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry in which she will try to become just the 12th Funny Car driver to win the world’s biggest drag race more than one time.

She joined a slightly less exclusive fraternity, one that includes co-car owner and crew chief Del Worsham, when she used a .037 of a second starting line reaction to beat multiple-time world champion John Force and win her first U.S. Nationals title in 2014. It was a benchmark in a career that obviously is far from over.

Ultimately, her goal is to hoist the Mello Yello trophy in the only NHRA pro category that never has crowned a woman as champion.  

Of her 2018-2019 hiatus, Dejoria told the NHRA’s John Kernan: “I realized that I don’t make a very good spectator. It was really hard to watch it on TV (and) it was tough being at the starting line (as a bystander). 

“I honestly knew deep down when I made the announcement (to retire) that it was going to be sort of an open-ended retirement,” she said. “I’m beyond excited to be back out (here). I have this incredible opportunity to build a team with two of the people who were by my side when I started my nitro Funny Car career (Worsham and co-crew chief Nicky Boninfante).

“Del is my mentor and the person whose car I licensed with in the first place and Nicky was one of the first people at Kalitta (Racing) who I talked to when I made the transition from Top Alcohol Funny Car to nitro Funny Car. Del and Nicky (are) the ‘dream team’ for me,” she admitted.

In the short term, that “dream team” has struggled to race up to its own high expectations in a season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s hard to get in a rhythm when you’ve only got a handful of races,” DeJoria said. Indeed, what the team has needed since it assembled in late 2019 is just more runs down the racetrack. Normally, by Labor Day weekend, DeJoria, Worsham and Boninfante likely would have made in excess of 100 competitive runs during qualifying and eliminations.

This year, though, because of event cancelations and the imposition of a new format in which there are only two qualifying runs per event instead of the traditional four, DeJoria has made only 21 competitive runs in five events and reached the finish line under power only nine times. 

That’s why the team spent last week testing, an investment the three principals hope will pay off in performance this weekend.

A five-time pro tour winner whose career began in Super Gas and Super Comp and included a national event victory and a pair of runner-up finishes in Top Alcohol Funny Car, DeJoria’s “need for speed” dates to her childhood when she used to ride her BMX bike “off my grandma’s dock and into her saltwater pond.” 

Early on, she was enamored with jet fighter aircraft but when her dad, John Paul DeJoria, took her to the drag races in Pomona, Calif., when she was 16, the world’s fastest accelerating land vehicles became her passion. They still are.

A single run Friday at 6:30 p.m. (Eastern time) will kick off the qualifying phase. Two more sessions at 12:45 and 5:20 p.m. on Saturday will set the field for eliminations beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday. Fox television coverage will commence with qualifying highlights at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. (Eastern time) Saturday on FS1. Race coverage will begin on FS1 at 11 a.m. Sunday, switching to the Fox broadcast network at 1 p.m.

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BY SUSAN WADE - For DC Motorsports co-owner Alexis DeJoria, restarting the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season was Christmas in July.

“I was really excited when I heard we would open at Indy,” the driver of the ROKiT Phones Toyota Camry Funny Car said.

DeJoria had won the 2014 U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, and that, she said, “was the high point of my career.” The anticipation had her sleepless.

After all, she had taken a hiatus, one that gnawed at her. She knew she needed to address family concerns, but at the same time, she hardly could stand not being in the seat of her 11,000-horsepower, nitro-burning chariot. And just when she got a reminder of the 330-mph thrills she had been missing, the sport had to pause, as well.
 

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By Jerry Bonkowski Alexis DeJoria is ready to ride her ROKiT ship Funny Car again this weekend as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns for its second consecutive weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis.

DeJoria is coming off a strong run at Indy this past weekend, the NHRA’s return to racing after nearly 4 ½ months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeJoria advanced to the quarterfinals last Sunday before losing to former Funny Car champ and former Kalitta Motorsports teammate JR Todd.

Like the rest of her full-time peers, last weekend was DeJoria’s third race of the season. In the season opener at Pomona, California, she impressively reached the semifinals after a two-year layoff before suffering a first-round loss the following race at Phoenix.

She wants to pick up where she left off last Sunday by reaching the final round – and potentially winning – this weekend’s event back in Indy.

Indianapolis is a familiar and friendly place for DeJoria, who won the sport’s biggest race – the U.S. Nationals – there in 2014.

“I was really excited when I heard we would open at Indy,” DeJoria said of the NHRA’s decision to end its coronavirus hiatus at Indianapolis. “Winning the U.S. Nationals there was the high point of my career.

“As it kept getting closer, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The night before our first test day, I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited. I was like a little kid.”

As is the case with many of her fellow competitors, DeJoria, driver of the DC Motorsports ROKiT Phones Toyota Camry Funny Car, understood why the NHRA stopped racing due to the pandemic, as well as the inability to have fans in the stands.

But it wasn’t easy.

Read Full Story

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