BRISTOL, Tenn. — Alexis DeJoria and crew chief Del Worsham like Bristol Dragway.
The quarter-mile track, tucked between the Tennessee mountains, has treated them well over the years.
It was the site of their first final-round appearance as a tuner-driver duo in 2012, when the two raced under the Kalitta Motorsports banner. Nine years later, they shot straight into the winner’s circle with DC Motorsports.
This time around, DeJoria is entering the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals with a burst of wind under her wings.
The Funny Car force has been picking up speed since her semifinal finish at Florida’s Gainesville Raceway during the season opener in February. Over the ensuing months, she’s logged one runner-up result and has climbed as high as second in the standings, though she’s currently fourth.
From the outside looking in, it seems the puzzle pieces may finally be fitting together for the 45-year-old, who has yet to win an NHRA championship in her 12 years of racing Funny Car.
“It’s an accumulation of trial and error from last year, everything we were testing out. We had new bodies, new clutch setup, different heads and things like that we had to assimilate to,” DeJoria said. “Last year really built up and paid off this year. It’s showed.”
With her growing stockpile of stout finishes, DeJoria believes her team is on the cusp of bringing home a Wally — something she’s hoping to do for a second time at Bristol.
But recently, the buzz about DeJoria has involved her record on the starting line, rather than her top-end results.
On May 21 at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., the California native made her 200th career start. In doing so, she also became the first female to reach 200 in Funny Car competition.
“It did surprise me, because I keep my head down and just keep racing and I don’t really think about, oh, you’re the first female to do this or that,” DeJoria said.
She hadn’t even been aware that she was approaching 200, until she was informed by her PR agents. But the milestone provided a needed moment of reflection for DeJoria, after she took a tough first-round loss at the Route 66 Nationals.
“It just kind of makes me remember who I am and what I’ve accomplished throughout these 200 starts of mine. It feels really good and I’m really grateful,” DeJoria said.
Following Friday night’s nitro session under the lights, DeJoria was fifth in the provisional qualifying lineup for the Thunder Valley Nationals in her ROKiT Phones/Bandero Tequila Toyota Funny Car.