DEJORIA ENDS WINLESS DROUGHT WITH BRAINERD VICTORY
The winless drought is over for nitro Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria.
DeJoria, who last won in April 3, 2016 in Las Vegas, found the winner’s circle again with her victory Sunday at the Lucas Oil Nationals Sunday at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway.
DeJoria, piloting her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry for Kalitta Motorsports, claimed the win by beating Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round.
DeJoria clocked a 3.906-second lap at 330.96 mph to edge Johnson’s 3.933-second run at 324.44 mph.
“I’m very resilient, that’s the way I was raised,” DeJoria said. “You never give up and the last two years have been really, really difficult. There have been lots of ups and downs, injuries, no wins, just can’t get up to speed with everybody else. We’re just fighting so hard out there and you start to lose yourself in it and you start to forget why you even came here. You forget the love you had in the beginning, that spark starts to go away and it’s sad. I don’t ever want to be in it, but honestly it is times like that that makes this so much better because you really appreciate every moment.”
This was fifth career NHRA nitro Funny Car win, and her first at Brainerd. DeJoria’s victory parade was comprised of wins over Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon, John Force and then Johnson Jr.
“This was a huge win for us,” DeJoria said. “My gosh, all day long a bunch of bad a** drivers who have been driving way longer than probably I’ve been alive, except for Tommy. There were no gimmes. We got a little bit of luck against Timmy in the first round and it was what we needed. We haven’t got any good breaks and that’s been hard. I’ve been getting beat on holeshots the last two races, which kills me, but (Sunday) we were both on our game.”
After winning with a 4.416-second run against Wilkerson, DeJoria found her groove with a 3.883-second lap in her win over Pedregon.
“I can tell you when I got back to the pit, I ran into the crew chief lounge and I jumped on both of them (her crew chiefs, Nicky Boninfante/Tommy DeLago) and shook them. It was just incredible. We’ve been struggling to get back in the 3.80s and it has been rough, but you have to race smart out there. Sometimes we don’t qualify that well, but on race day we have a good package and we definitely did (Sunday). I’m so proud of Tommy and Nicky and the whole team for sticking it out. Those guys have been run through the mud and they are here and supportive just like the Kalitta organization. I’m so blessed to be racing for them.”
DeJoria missed three races this season – Charlotte, Atlanta and Topeka, Kan., to tend to family matters, and Chad Head was her substitute driver.
“We love Chad so much, but the guys were really happy when I came back, and I think Chad was too,” DeJoria said. “We’re not trying to rotate the Earth, we’re just chipping away at it and getting better and better every run. When I start getting confident, watch out because I have the blinders on and I’m dead focused. Against John Force in the semifinals, I felt like it was Indy 2014 finals all the way. I just had that drive again and nothing could faze me. We ran up here and we were so late and they were so courteous to let me rush and get dressed and I just had that fire in me all the way through. I just have an incredible team. I can’t say enough about them.”
DeJoria arrived in Brainerd 14th in the season point standings and with the win she is now 10th with 664 points. She is 12 points in front of 11th place Pedregon. The final regular season race is the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis (Aug. 30-Sept. 4). At Indy, there is an increased amount of points in play via the points-and-a-half system for this event (150 points to the winner). The top 10 finishers in NHRA’s pro classes qualify for the six-race Countdown to the Championship, which begins Sept. 15-17 in Charlotte, N.C.
“The last two races have been very tough, the last race (Seattle), I could have used one of my reactions times I had (Sunday), that would’ve been amazing,” DeJoria said. “I know everything happens for a reason. (Sunday) was just surreal. To go from the 14th spot all to way to 10th and Indy is a good race for us, we won there (in 2014). I just feel 100 percent better than I did the last race (at Seattle).”
DeJoria acknowledged being in the winner’s circle with Brainerd’s Top Fuel champ Leah Pritchett made things even more special.
DeJoria became the 250th female to win a national NHRA event on Sunday and Sunday’s win marked the first time two female drivers in the nitro categories won the same national event.
“It’s a big deal,” DeJoria said. “It’s 2017, it’s not as hard as it was for Shirley Muldowney, but obviously there’s just a handful of us and it’s going to be a big deal no matter what when girls do something. I just hope more females get in the pro ranks. We’re h*ll of drivers, obviously the cars, the bikes, they don’t know the difference. It’s a huge honor to be one of the two women who have won at the same time at the same event.”