Alexis DeJoria’s journey to the NHRA began when she went to the Winternationals in Pomona, CA as a 16-year-old. DeJoria knew she liked racing, but was not sure what type of racing she wanted to pursue until she saw John Force and her current teammate, Del Worsham, rocket down the track in their Nitro Funny Cars. She said the experience, “pretty much set it in stone.”
Before DeJoria started a career as a professional racer, she finished high school and went to work for the family company, Paul Mitchell Systems. After four years of working at Paul Mitchell, and gaining invaluable business experience, DeJoria decided to give racing a go, and enrolled in Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School.
The schooling and racing at various levels paid dividends. DeJoria said, “I got licensed in the Super Gas class, went back [to drag racing school], and got licensed in the Super Comp dragster class, and did really well. I raced Super Gas for a couple races, but then quickly moved to Super Comp because it just seemed like a better fit, and I found a really good consistent race car. Had a couple races on it, and I did really well.” She added, “Within my first eight months, I made it to a couple finals, and I won a Sportsman National. So, I was thinking, ‘Alright, you know what, I think I did pick the right profession.’ And from then on, when I felt I mastered that style of racing or that class, I made the next step up.”
DeJoria raced a Top Alcohol Funny Car for five years, and during that time, owned and operated her own team for three years. After DeJoria won a national event, she felt it was time to make the next step, and joined Kalitta Motorsports as a Nitro Funny Car driver. She is now in her third season with the team.
DeJoria knew the switch would entail a learning curve, “I was a new driver, new team, new crew chief, and it takes time to build a team. To build consistency in your race car. To figure out what the car likes.” She added, “At the end of the last two years our car was finally starting to see consistency, and it was liking everything that they were doing in the clutch and the fuel setup…the car finally got the tune up it needed, and it was consistent.”
The Tequila Patrón Nitro Funny Car driver is currently having a breakout season with her first career Nitro Funny Car win at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Phoenix, and her second win at the SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas.
Speaking of winning, DeJoria is now beating the drivers who inspired her to become a drag racer, “My first couple runs in competition against them I just felt so stoked, like a little kid. Sitting there thinking, ‘Wow, I used to watch you guys go down the track, and now I’m here, staging next to you, ready to duke it out.’ It feels amazing, I still get stoked when I go up there. I just feel super grateful to be able to do something like this.”
Funny Car drivers do not practice runs, but will work on their reaction time with a tree that simulates the countdown at the start of a race. At racing school, DeJoria also learned how to visualize her runs from the beginning to the end. She said, “It’s really a mental sport, and when you are up there, you have to do everything so perfect because you don’t get another chance. If you mess up one thing, that’s it.” DeJoria deals with the immense pressure by going to the driver’s lounge about an hour before the race to clear her mind.
Focus and reaction time are of the utmost importance, “You have to really be prepared for anything out there until that car is pulled off the racetrack and stopped, and turned off and everything. You have to be on your game every second.”
DeJoria has been on her game this season with two wins, and she is currently third in the 2014 Mello Yello Championship Points Standings for the Funny Car category.
In addition, DeJoria became the first woman in NHRA history to make a run in the 3-second zone. The 3.997 run occurred at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA, courtesy of the NHRA:
And here is DeJoria’s first career Nitro Funny Car win at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Phoenix, courtesy of the NHRA: