Alexis DeJoria knows she has ground to make up in the race to earn a spot in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. But that added pressure has already brought out some positive signs for the Funny Car standout and she’s hopeful the best is yet to come.
DeJoria, who missed three races earlier in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, has round wins at three of the past five races in her 10,000-horsepower Tequila Patron Toyota Camry, putting her just 69 points out of 10th. With improvements still to be made, DeJoria is ready to take a big step at the 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, July 28-30.
“I honestly believe with all of the points we’ve made up and the smaller gap between us and the 10th spot, I think we have a good shot at getting ourselves into the top 10,” DeJoria said. “These next few races are going to be crucial, obviously. We don’t want to make any mistakes and get behind but I really don’t see us doing that. We’ve done well on the Western Swing before and we’ve won at Indy so I feel really good about our chances. We have found a good balance. We’re not trying to rotate the earth or be superstars right away, we’re just trying to creep in on it.”
J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 30. It marks the 15th of 24 events this season and, as DeJoria alluded to, it is the second of three stops on the famed NHRA Western Swing. DeJoria heads to the important juncture of the season running well, earning round wins in Englishtown, Norwalk and the most recent race in Chicago.
Those strides have been nice, but with only three races following Sonoma before the Countdown to the Championship, DeJoria is eager for even more success. That means focusing simply on the task at hand, which more than anything is winning for the first time since April of 2016.
“Honestly we just want to keep moving forward,” said DeJoria, who has four career wins. “We want to be in the Top 10 (and) it is possible. We are battling it out with some very good drivers so it’s going to be tough but that’s not my focus. We haven’t won a race since Vegas I last year so more than anything, we just want to go rounds and win. If that gets us into the Top 10, that’s awesome, but we’re just looking for round wins right now and a Wally to add to it.”
Grabbing wins in the loaded Funny Car class hasn’t been easy in 2017, as reigning champ Ron Capps has dominated to the tune of a career-best six victories. But DeJoria enjoys racing at scenic Sonoma Raceway in the heart of wine country, and she hopes that translates into more success.
“I love racing in Sonoma,” DeJoria said. “It’s one of those tracks where we tend to do well. We’ve gone to the semifinals a couple of times there so I feel like we have the potential to make up a lot of points. We need a win and I would love to do it in Sonoma. I’m a California girl and I didn’t get (a win) in Pomona earlier this year but Nor Cal is just as good. Not to mention, it’s a Toyota race so we especially want to perform well when our sponsors are out at the track in full force.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:15 and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 28 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 29, at 1:10 and 4:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 30.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.sonomaraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.