News/Race Reports

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Explosive Performance, Literally and Figuratively, for ROKiT/ABK Toyota Camry

MADISON, Ill. (St. Louis) – In her best outing since returning this year to the NHRA pro tour, Alexis DeJoria qualified the ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry in the No. 2 position and raced into the Funny Car semifinals before a massive supercharger explosion changed the momentum of Sunday’s 23rd Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway.

In the second round, as DeJoria neared the finish line at more than 320 miles per hour and prepared to deploy the parachutes after beating former world champion J.R. Todd, a cylinder misfired in the 11,000 horsepower engine. That failure started a chain reaction that led to a massive supercharger explosion that blew the body apart. 

Although the explosion was spectacular, DeJoria was able to maintain her composure and get the car under control before it hit the retaining wall or anything else. 

Despite the damage, crew chiefs Del Worsham and Nicky Boninfante supervised a complete rebuild of the car and engine that enabled DeJoria to make the semifinal call to face former world champion Matt Hagan just 35 minutes later. 

Unfortunately, there was no time to warm the engine and check all the systems and when DeJoria hit the throttle, she felt the car shake and had no choice but to abort the run as Hagan advanced in 3.938 seconds.

“It was definitely a crazy day,” said the five-time pro tour winner of an afternoon during which Top Fuel driver Leah Pruett and Ron Capps also had to deal with major failures. “Leah, Ron Capps, myself. It banged me up a little, but I think I’m all right. It was incredibly important (to get back in the car after the incident). I want to thank everyone who helped us (put the car back together). I think we had four teams that jumped in to help. We really are family out here.” 

By reaching the semifinals, DeJoria solidified her hold on the No. 8 position in points with just three races remaining in a 2020 season reduced to 11 events by the COVID-19 pandemic. She will lead Paul Lee by three racing rounds when qualifying begins Oct. 17 in the 35th annual AAA Texas Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex, the track on which DeJoria made her professional Funny Car debut in 2011. 

She attributed her second semifinal appearance of the year to the team’s aggressive testing program which included two runs at Tulsa, Okla., Raceway Park won the way to Midwest Nationals. 

“The car was running really good and consistent (until the explosion),” DeJoria said, “(and) getting past the second round felt so good. At least we’re good to race another day.”


The
 ROKiT Report with Alexis DeJoria

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

Event: 23rd Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals

Site: World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Madison, Ill. (St. Louis)

Qualifying position: No. 2 at 3.929 seconds, 288.21 miles per hour.

Qualifying bonus points: 2 for second quick time in Q1.

Race day results: Round 1, Alexis DeJoria, 3.907 seconds, 329.50 mph, def. Dale Creasy Jr., 5.624 seconds, 129.29 mph; Quarterfinals, Alexis DeJoria, 3.918 seconds, 322.96 mph, def. J.R. Todd, 6.559 seconds, 99.33 mph; Alexis DeJoria, 8.043 seconds, 87.47 mph, lost to Matt Hagan, 3.935 seconds, 328.62 mph.

Perspective: From her best qualifying position in her last 44 tour starts, Alexis took the ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota to the semifinals in her best ever result in the Mopar Express Lane Midwest Nationals.  


2020 MIDWEST NATIONALS 

Final Round Results:

 

FUNNY CAR – Tommy Johnson Jr., 3.884 seconds, 326.08 mph, def. Matt Hagan, 3.886, 333.00 mph.

TOP FUEL – Doug Kalitta, 3.690 seconds, 322.58 mph, def. Steve Torrence, 9.111, 82.58 mph.

PRO STOCK – Postponed due to track conditions. 

 

During the second round of eliminations at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil in Madison, Ill., Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria's Funny Car body blew off. DeJoria exited the car under her own power.

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Five-Time Tour Winner Drives ROKiT/ABK Toyota in NHRA Midwest Nationals

MADISON, Ill. (St. Louis) – Alexis DeJoria’s need for speed manifested itself long before she first climbed into the cockpit of the 330 mile per hour ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry in which she will contest the Funny Car championship in this week’s 23rd Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. 

While those around her were dreaming of careers in fashion, education, medicine and the movies, as a young girl she informed her parents that when she grew up, she wanted to become a jet fighter pilot. 

Fascinated by combat aircraft after watching television documentaries on them, she could rattle off statistics on the capabilities and armament of fighter jets like the F-15C Eagle as if she had flown them for years. They were her obsession until her dad took her to her first drag race at Pomona, Calif.

Although she ultimately realized her childhood dream when she flew in an F-15E “Strike Eagle” operated by the “Thunderbolts” of the 389th fighter wing at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho, DeJoria’s passion for drag racing has been unquenchable since that first exposure and, after a two year absence, she is back at work in one of the fastest vehicles on the planet that doesn’t have wings.

With a new team born of old relationships, DeJoria is on a journey to become the first woman to win the NHRA Funny Car championship. This year was to have laid the foundation for that quest, but COVID-19 has made it far more difficult for DeJoria and the tuning tandem of Del Worsham and Nicky Boninfante to establish the competitive rhythm so crucial to success. 

Only now, with four races remaining in a season shortened by the pandemic, do DeJoria’s co-crew chiefs believe their 11,000-horsepower hot rod is beginning to respond positively to their on-site adjustments. The proof, of course, will have to come on race day.

Although she has won five times on the Mello Yello tour and even though her resume includes a 2014 victory in the world’s most prestigious drag race, the Labor Day U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, DeJoria hasn’t hoisted a trophy since she prevailed in the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd, Minn., in August, 2017.

That said, this weekend she will be back on a racing surface on which she and her team legitimately expect to be competitive. After all, Worsham won the Midwest Nationals three times as a driver (2003, 2009 and 2015) and the last time DeJoria was here she posted career best 1,000-foot performance numbers of 3.863 seconds and 333.16 miles per hour.

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.”

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.

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

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Two days after celebrating her birthday aboard a 2,700 horsepower Outerlimits offshore powerboat, 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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