We caught up with Del Worsham, the new crew chief of Funny Car driver Alex DeJoria, as he prepared for the 2020 season at his family's race shop in Southern California. DeJoria will return to the seat of her Toyota Camry Funny Car after a two-year hiatus, while Worsham takes the reins as crew chief after tuning the Funny Car of Shawn Langdon to a pair of wins during the 2019 season.
NHRA Funny Car racer Alexis DeJoria was one of three inductees enshrined into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame recently in Rosemont, Ill.
DeJoria, a seven-time NHRA national event winner, joined an elite group of Italian-American athletes when she is recognized as a member of The Hall’s Class of 2019. Joining DeJoria were NFL star Glen Carano and the late Ralph ‘Babe’ Serpico. DeJoria also shared the stage with auto racing legend Mario Andretti as he was presented with The Hall’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.
“This is an incredible honor to be recognized as an Italian-American athlete in the sport of NHRA Drag Racing,” said DeJoria, whose heritage includes Italian and Greek roots. “When I learned I had been selected, I felt instant pride thinking back to when my grandfather immigrated here from Italy to become part of the American dream.”
Competitionplus.com - It's just one test session, which has provided enough results to convince the tuning shot-callers they have a contender right out of the box.
Multi-time NHRA Funny Car race winner Alexis DeJoria announced in October she'd be returning to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with a new team spearheaded by championship figures Del Worsham and Nicky Boninfante. What was intended to be a test session in Bakersfield, Ca., to knock off some rust, apparently had no rust to knock off, according to Boninfante.
"That was the whole purpose of letting her get some runs and knock the rust off, so to speak," Bonifante said. "But there wasn't any rust to be found. Some of the equipment that we already have is what we're going to use for next year. So we have some new, a lot of new equipment coming, but some of it was basically what she's going to start the season. It's a good head start on 2020."
Worsham was touted as DeJoria's mentor when she first graduated into fuel Funny Car,
"It kind of reminds me of the end of 2011 and '12 again, like we're kind of picking up where we left off and what our original plans were and what we wanted to do, and it felt good," Worsham said. "It feels good to be out there and just racing with her again, and getting a chance for her and me to do what we originally started out to do."
Worsham said point-blank, DeJoria aced her first test after being absent for two years.
Alexis DeJoria will return to full-time Funny Car competition in 2020. The Californian, who last competed full-time in 2017, will be on the entry list at the 2020 Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.
“I honestly knew deep down when I made the announcement to retire at the end of the 2017 NHRA season that it was going to be sort of an open-ended retirement,” said DeJoria. “I’m beyond excited to get back out there. I’ve been blessed spending time with my family these past two years off. This was a decision I made with their support, and we are all looking forward to my return to the driver’s seat.”
She will drive for a new, independently-operated team with Nicky Boninfante and Del Worsham as co-crew chiefs. DeJoria last drove under the Kalitta Motorsports umbrella with Boninfante as one of the crew chiefs of her Funny Car.
Both Boninfante and Worsham currently tune Shawn Langdon’s Global Electronic Technology Funny Car, which heads to Charlotte as the most recent winner on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour.
“I now 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,” said DeJoria. “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 who I talked to when I made the transition from Top Alcohol Funny Car to nitro Funny Car. Del and Nicky, they’re the ‘dream team’ for me, and I’m eager to embark on this new adventure with them.”
No partners were immediately announced. Corresponding announcements have not been made about the Funny Car entered by Kalitta Motorsports. The NHRA is back in action in Charlotte beginning Friday.
Competition Plus - Alexis DeJoria knew from the day she announced her open-ended retirement she'd second guess her decision to retire from driving a fuel-burning Funny Car.
"[Coming back] It’s something I’ve thought about, and I’ll be honest, it’s something that I thought about from the day that I retired," DeJoria, a five-time winner in eight finals during her professional career. "Is it possible I ever come back out? I think about it every day. I miss it tremendously. I miss all my competitors, my family out there. I actually do miss all the people at the tracks and coming into a new track and just meeting all the fans and all that camaraderie. I don’t know. It’s possible. I wouldn’t rule it out."
DeJoria stepped away from drag racing at the conclusion of a physically and emotionally challenging 2017 season, proclaiming her retirement as one she wouldn't hesitate to reverse when the time is right.
This intent didn't mean DeJoria didn't struggle with her decision early on.
"I knew I was in for it," she said. "I had a bout of depression that I had to deal with because when you’re in such a fast-paced lifestyle where your job is everything to you, it’s not just a job, it is a lifestyle. It’s your profession; it’s how I perceive myself. I’m a racer. I’m a driver. That’s is me. To go from 300 miles an hour to standing still, it took a lot to get through that. I’ve had a lot of support from my family. I have a great family that loves me very much. They loved me when I was racing, and they still love me when I’m not racing.