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