Drivers in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series can’t dwell on the past — whether it be past mistakes, luck, heartbreak or victories.
That was Alexis DeJoria’s resolve as she prepared for the NHRA Carolina Nationals last weekend, ready to put her regular season shortcomings behind her. The 11-year Funny Car competitor has been chasing elimination wins since the start of the season, but reaching race-form has been a slow process for the DC Motorsports team.
“We’ve been just working on chipping away at little issues that have come up,” DeJoria said. “Unlike our past couple seasons, we didn’t really come off strongly this year.”
And in a sport where you can go from “hero to zero” in a matter of seconds, DeJoria admitted this year has been humbling. One of the uphill battles for the DC Motorsports crew involved fine-tuning the Funny Car following a body swap to the GR Supra Toyota design, which in turn required DeJoria to adjust her driving style.
“It’s like the princess and the pea. Every little thing changes other things,” DeJoria said.
Progress was being made week-to-week, but it had yet to lead to the team’s desired results on race day, leaving the first round of eliminations as DeJoria’s self-proclaimed nemesis.
During Friday and Saturday’s qualifying sessions at zMAX Dragway, DeJoria placed ninth, matching her with J.R. Todd for the opening elimination round on Sunday. Her opportunity to overcome the dreaded first round had arrived.
“You just have to be in that moment and be a machine and do your very best,” DeJoria said.
DeJoria wasted no time in destroying any lingering doubts about herself and her car as she powered down the drag strip and triggered the win light. The rest of it came together when she defeated points leader Robert Hight in the second round of eliminations — at a career-best speed of 334 mph, no less.
“We just kept going and the car was going down the track like it was supposed to,” DeJoria recalled, handing credit to her crew for the flawless performance.
Moving onto the semifinal round against Matt Hagan, DeJoria was poised to steal the victory yet again, which she accomplished with a 3.918-second elapsed time. Her triumph secured her a spot in the finals against two-time champion Ron Capps.
“That was just incredible for me,” DeJoria said. “You don’t get to really celebrate prior to the run, you’ve got to keep your game face on, but my goodness, when I popped out at the top end, I felt like I was getting a trophy because it was such a surreal day.”
DeJoria had celebrated her 45th birthday on Saturday, ironically marking her trip to the finals on Sunday as one of the best birthday presents she’s ever received.
Simply making it to the semifinals was a win for the DC Motorsports team, but ending their day as runner-up to Capps was the boost they needed to return to the championship chase. DeJoria’s finish moved her from ninth to sixth in the standings, 129 points behind Hight. But, according to her, the championship is always a possibility.
Beyond the pure pride and gratifying reward that comes with a Funny Car title, there are several reasons DeJoria continues to push for a championship.
“A woman has never won a championship in nitro Funny Car, so of course, I would love to be the very first one to do that. But again, you can’t get too far ahead of yourself,” DeJoria said.
Her best finish in the playoffs came last year, when she ended the season sixth in points. With her Bandero/Rokit Funny Car currently settled in the same position, the closer target DeJoria is hoping to hit this year includes filing a top-five finish in the championship.
With only four remaining races, the pressure is on for DeJoria to go rounds on race day, to pick up every point possible and claim a win by the time the series visits California’s Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to conclude the season on Nov. 10-13.
Luckily, this weekend’s event at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., near St. Louis, is one she’s excited about.
“I’ve had thrills and spills at St. Louis, but definitely some good success,” DeJoria said. “We’ve got a chance.”
In what could be considered a good luck charm, DeJoria’s performance at the track in 2017 resulted in her previous career-best speed and ET — 333.16 mph, 3.863 seconds.
However, DeJoria puts it like this: “You’re only as good as your last greatest hit.”
And since her last greatest hit was a trip to the finals, that seems to be all the good luck she needs.