At the season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals, Alexis DeJoria led the female Funny Car charge, becoming the first woman in Funny Car history to record an elapsed time quicker than four seconds.
“It’s a great accomplishment for our team,” DeJoria said in reference to her Patron XO Café Toyota Camry’s 3.997-second pass. “It feels absolutely amazing to hold that place in history. I have so much confidence in [crew chief] Tommy DeLago, and I knew it was just a matter of time. He knows how to run fast.”
Even more rewarding for DeJoria, both her husband, Jesse James, and her father, John Paul DeJoria, were at the starting line when she raced to the historic pass.
“It’s always such a great feeling to run well when you have your friends and family there watching,” DeJoria said. “But to have them there during a record-breaking run like that just made the moment all the more special.”
A disappointing first-round exit ended the Winternationals weekend for DeJoria, and she now sets her sights on Phoenix. DeJoria understands the importance of her run in Pomona, but wants to make sure to keep her focus in the right place.
“As amazing as that run was, and felt, it’s only one run,” DeJoria said. “We have to keep our focus and charge ahead. We have rounds to go and still need to get the first event win. Hopefully we can accomplish that this weekend.”
Her record-breaking run in Pomona wasn’t the only major positive of the opening weekend. DeJoria got to show off the car’s new paint scheme in honor of Patron XO Café. Trading her trademark black and lime-green colors for a sleek new black and purple design, DeJoria thinks that the new look is making the season even better.
“I think starting off the year with a new look has been received very well by the fans and by our peers,” DeJoria said. “We’re all loving the black and purple look of the Patron XO Café brand. It’s kind of funny because in the racing world, some people believe that green is a bad luck color. We’re happy to start the new season with a fresh new look.”
DeJoria and the rest of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors now are setting their sights on the newly repaved Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, home to the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Feb. 21-23. Telecast on ESPN2HD, the event features defending race winners Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock). DeJoria wants to make some noise in Phoenix and thinks the new track conditions can create runs similar to her record breaker in Pomona.
“Phoenix has a tendency to be a fast track at times,” DeJoria said. “I’m really excited to see how the track is now compared to how it used to be. There used to be some bumps in both lanes, and supposedly it’s a much smoother track now. Hopefully that combined with good track conditions will produce some more fast runs for our team.”
Although she was the first woman to accomplish the feat, DeJoria became the ninth Funny Car driver to post a run quicker than four seconds. She continues to be an inspiration to her fans, especially the young girls who constantly visit her in her pit area while she’s signing autographs.
“Anything is possible,” DeJoria said. “It’s just a matter of how bad you want it and how focused you are. I would tell any young girl who wants to race to never give up on her dream and keep pushing ahead no matter what. Whenever you put your whole self into your work, it’s inevitable that eventually you will accomplish great things.”
In Phoenix, DeJoria will face tough competition. Winternationals winner John Force leads all drivers with eight wins at the Arizona dragstrip, and the 16-time Funny Car world champ is off to a hot start to the season, setting both ends of the national record on his way to his seventh season-opening victory in Funny Car and his 139th win. Capps, the defending Phoenix race winner in the category, made national highlight reels following a spectacular engine explosion during Friday qualifying in Pomona, and he wants to bounce back and pick up his first victory of the season. Past Phoenix winners Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Del Worsham, Robert Hight, and Cruz Pedregon and Force’s youngest daughter, Courtney, will all be threats to take home the season’s second Wally.
In Top Fuel, Schumacher leads the category with four wins at the facility and will try to add victory number five after a disappointing first-round loss at the season opener. Winternationals winner Khalid alBalooshi, Pomona runner-up and top qualifier Doug Kalitta, defending world champ Shawn Langdon, two-time Phoenix winner Antron Brown, Spencer Massey, Steve Torrence, and Clay Millican are all hoping to produce a great finish to get an early jump in the points standings.
In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin Jr. is determined to win his sixth Pro Stock crown, but to do so, he will have to outlast a tough field of racers in the factory hot rod category, including teammate Allen Johnson and fellow competitors Jason Line, Shane Gray, V. Gaines, defending winner Enders-Stevens, and Vincent Nobile, among others.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, Feb. 21, with the first session at 1:30 p.m. and a second at 4 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Feb. 22, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 23.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will be showcased during the event, featuring exciting side-by-side racing action.