Alexis DeJoria wins in Phoenix
Anne Proffit photo
Racing is the only type of sport I can think of where men and women can – and do – compete at the same level.
This is true especially in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, where being a female driver isn’t a quirk at all. Witness the success of three-time Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney, Shelly Anderson, Melanie Troxel, three women named Force (Ashley, Brittany – who raced to her first final at Phoenix last Sunday – and Courtney), Erica Enders-Stevens, Leah Pritchett – and now first-time pro Funny Car winner Alexis DeJoria.
DeJoria is in her third season of professional competition and went to only her second final round in the 30th annual Carquest Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsport Park on Sunday. After becoming the first woman to race a Funny Car in less than 4 seconds at the season opener in Pomona two weeks earlier in her Toyota Camry, DeJoria served notice with four good qualifying attempts on Friday and Saturday.
She was one of a very few drivers to register consistent times on the newly resurfaced Phoenix-area drag strip, one that has new promoters anxious to make the NHRA drag racers feel at home. The new surface presented unique challenges for the tuners that prepare these cars for battle, as they have to harness as much as 10,000 horsepower to keep a machine churning down a 1,000-foot drag strip.
For Tommy DeLago, the victory was one that he needed after not standing in NHRA’s Winner’s Circle since tuning Matt Hagan to his 2011 Funny Car championship. DeLago, an intense and hands-on safety activist in the NHRA paddock, never lost his ability to tune; he just didn’t have the right surroundings to activate his talent.
He’s found it with Kalitta Motorsports, a family operation based out of deepest, coldest Ypsilanti, Michigan – far from most Brownsburg, Indiana based teams – and its pair of Funny Car and Top Fuel entries. Tuning Alexis DeJoria, DeLago is now back on-stride and it’s evident in his his body language and his smile.
As for DeJoria, a winner in the Top Alcohol Funny Car ranks, well, she’s quietly emerged as a true competitor in Funny Car. What started out as looking more like PR for her father’s Patron Spirits tequila brand has morphed into a truly professional operation with Alexis herself showing the way.
DeJoria got her chops by working with now-teammate Del Worsham in her first year of Funny Car. Worsham, who had stepped out of the driver’s seat after winning the Top Fuel championship with Al-Anabi Racing in 2011, taught Alexis a lot about driving one of these beasts which, by virtue of their shorter wheelbase than the dragsters and their drag inducing bodies are truly a race car that must be manhandled, to use a tired phrase. It was a good task for a strong woman – and Alexis DeJoria fits that bill.
Now she finds herself with a Funny Car Wally trophy, becoming the 90th NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car winner, the fourth female Funny Car driver to win in the category and the first woman to win in both Funny Car and Top Alcohol Funny Car. I have a feeling it won’t be the last time she’s hoisting a Wally over her head, as Alex DeJoria is focused on her work and achieving joy in her success.
By Anne Proffit