Alexis DeJoria Is Ready to Break Her Next Boundary: Winning an NHRA Funny Car Championship
Alexis DeJoria’s name has been tied to countless broken records and historic successes for women in motorsport, but as a racer, she’s not ready to give up the competition just yet. She was the first woman to 100 NHRA Funny Car starts in 2016, and she’ll make her 200th this coming weekend at the Route 66 event in Illinois. But DeJoria isn’t content. She’s ready to become the first woman to win a Funny Car championship, even if it means taking the 2023 one run at a time.
“All the work we did last year — all the heartache, the blood, sweat and tears — it paid off this year,” DeJoria said in an exclusive interview with Jalopnik. She laughed as she continued. “And to be near 200 starts... I had to really sit down and take that in. It’s amazing how time has gone by that fast. Some days I feel like I’ve been here for 20 years and other days I feel like, ‘What is this? What am I doing?’”
Heading into the Route 66 weekend, DeJoria is sitting second in the Funny Car championship, and she feels good. After an immensely challenging 2022 season, she and her team have worked out the kinks and found both speed and reliability that could be carried into 2023. It’s the morale boost they’ve needed — and a stark contrast to 2022's seventh-place finish.
“Last year was brutal,” DeJoria said. “This sport is the most humbling sport. My heart is attached to that race car. When the car is doing well, I’m over the moon. When it’s not doing well, it’s hard to get over it. Yeah, you have to get right back into the game. You can’t dwell on it. But with our particular sport, you don’t have a second chance. Every time you’re at the starting line, it’s all or nothing. Every move you make has to be perfect, because you don’t get another run to make it up.”
Part of that comes down to her decision to start her own team with crew chief Del Worsham in the thick of 2020's COVID-19 pandemic. As DeJoria put it, “it takes time to build information with a new car and a new team,” because even when the members of that crew have ample drag racing experience, many are learning how to work together for the first time.
But in 2023, things have clicked.
“This is our best start to a season yet,” she said. “In the first four events, we’ve qualified second three times. We’ve had two semi-finals and a final. We have the best average [elapsed time] during eliminations during race day, and our last race weekend, our team ran our career-best elapsed time of 3.854 seconds in 1000 feet.
“When you’re doing well and the car is running well, you just feel charged.”
Despite her family’s ties to the Pátron Tequila empire, DeJoria has had to fight her way to the top of the sport with her own mettle and skill. A family name alone can’t rack up six Funny Car wins. It doesn’t guarantee her the ability to become the first woman to make a sub-four second Funny Car pass. It doesn’t earn her respect as a safe, reliable, and dedicated competitor.
“I knew pretty much right away [drag racing] is where I was meant to be, from the first time I saw a live race at 16 years old,” she said. “I had success early on, but when I set out to do this, I wanted to win in every class before I made the jump to the next class up. I felt that meant I was ready to make that move.”
But for all that, DeJoria was ready with an answer when I asked her what she wants to tick off her bucket list next.
“To be the first woman to win a championship in Nitro Funny Cars,” she said without hesitation.
With 16 more Funny Car events remaining in the 2023 season, there’s plenty of time for DeJoria’s points total to grow — and for the fans at home to witness motorsport history in the making. But for now, she’s taking it a day at a time.
“I try not to look to far into the future,” she said. “You have to keep a level head in this game. One race at a time. One run at a time.”
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