After two-year hiatus from the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, Alexis DeJoria returned to the tour in 2020 behind the wheel of the ROKiT Toyota Camry Funny Car. The five-time Funny Car national event winner teamed with former world champion Del Worsham to return to racing action. After an eventful season DeJoria took some time to look back at her successes as well as look ahead to the 2021 NHRA season.
Can you talk about the highlights of your 2020 season?
The highlight of the season I would say was coming off a two-year hiatus and having a great showing at the Winternationals in Pomona. We had a new team, and I hadn’t been out there for two years. Even with all that newness we went out and ran good numbers and made it to the semifinals. That was a huge, huge highlight for me. Unfortunately, after that our season got cut short and we had to sit for a while. When we did come back out, we struggled a little bit at first but as soon as the guys figured out the tune-up we were running really good and consistent. Coming back after being off for so long and getting back to running well in itself was a huge highlight, too.
What did you miss the most? What was it like getting back behind wheel of 11,000-hp Funny Car?
I missed my team. Really this is a racing family. Being away for two years was like losing 12 people that are your friends and family all at once. I missed that and the camaraderie. I missed those G forces! I missed going those speeds and driving my Toyota Camry Funny Car. I missed the competitiveness of the nitro Funny Car class.
I was excited, hands down, when I got back to the track. I wasn’t really nervous about driving the car as much as I was nervous about the warm-up and the minute little things like packing my parachute. Once we went through the warm-up and I had packed some chutes, everything was good. As soon as that Funny Car started up on the starting line that was it for me. I have been racing for quite a while, not as long as some of my competitors, but enough to feel good about getting back up on the horse again.
How did the 2020 season make you a better driver?
The few mishaps that I had this year, the explosion in St. Louis and then the fire in Dallas, definitely made me a better driver. Going through those experiences brings so much more to the table. Some drivers don’t ever experience those things. On the one hand, I am not happy it happened but on the other hand, I am grateful for the experience and to be able to walk away from it to race another day.
What was the biggest surprise of 2020 looking back at the whole season?
When that clutch came in about half-track for sure. It definitely caught my attention a couple of times. I was like, “Oh man! Here it is! This is why I do what I do.”
What will be your main areas of focus in this longer than usual off-season?
This year was kind of hard on my body. I set up a little gym in my house during the downtime. I definitely could use more work in that area. I am going to really focus on working out with a trainer to get my body back into fighting shape. I am going to focus a little bit more so in my upper arm strength. You forget how much it wears on you and how much strength you really need to handle these cars. I think I did a pretty good job this year, but I can always do better.
I am going to work on my reaction times definitely. I had a few good ones this year but for the most part it has been really hard to get a good consistent rhythm going. There are a lot of variables at play but, as far as I am concerned, I need to work on my reaction times just for myself. You can have a great race car but if you have sucky reaction times you are not going to fare very well. That is going to be a big focus of mine.”
Can you talk about your partnership with Del Worsham and what it means to have a veteran and world champion like that on the team?
From day one Del was my mentor. When I first start it was Del and Jeff Arend giving me tips, but Del really stepped up taught me everything I know about driving a race car. He was there all the time to bounce ideas off of whether he was my crew chief, my teammate or a friend. He has a great history and he has been through it all. He has been driving Funny Cars since he was a teenager. There is nobody better out there for me to learn from than him. I am extremely grateful to be able to work with him and his family on this team. It is a dream come true.
Del is a family man and his wife Connie is at the races all the time. His daughters come out and they are the same age as my daughter. We have that in common too. When he is home, he is working in the shop at Worsham Racing with his dad. He goes out on his boat and stuff. We are both very, very competitive. We love racing but we also know how to take some time off as needed to enjoy life. Racing is a lifestyle. It is our profession, but it is also very much our lifestyle.
Do you have any holiday or travel plans?
AI am planning on getting out and riding my motorcycle while the weather is good as much as possible. As soon as there is snow in Colorado, we are going to head out there and get some snowboarding in. Snowboarding is a great workout in itself.
I am also hoping to have the opportunity to make a trip to Scotland. I have always to go but I was also hoping to plan a snowboarding trip with some other racers to Sweden, Germany, and maybe the French Alps or something. It doesn’t look that will happen until sometime in early 2021 hopefully.
What are goals you have set for yourself for the 2021 season?
Our race car is running really well, so that is good, and we are going to build off of how we were running this season. My goal personally will be to be more consistent on reaction times and getting our first win as a team.