Three-time Funny Car Winner Alexis Dejoria Looking to Add Antoher Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals Victory
CHANDLER, Ariz. – The 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener at Pomona marked the 100th career Funny Car race for Alexis DeJoria, and as she heads into her fifth full season, the three-time winner feels more comfortable than ever behind the wheel of her 10,000-horsepower Tequila Patrόn Toyota Camry.
The improvements have been noticeable throughout her career, but DeJoria appears poised for her best Funny Car finish yet heading into this weekend’s CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
DeJoria, who finished a career-best seventh in 2014 and won the event that same season, had a strong pre-season testing session at the facility this year – something she feels has already benefited her Kalitta Motorsports team.
“Off-season testing is very important,” said DeJoria, who went winless in 2015. “We will never skip another winter test session again. We didn’t test prior to the season in 2015 and I honestly feel like last year, I was trying to play catch up to all the changes that were made on the car that made it react differently. That’s not the case this year. We came out very strong. Our Patrón Toyota Camry is set up very well and it’s getting down the track consistently.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the race. For fans watching at home, the race will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including Saturday qualifying coverage as well as live coverage of Sunday’s finals at 5 p.m. (ET). The race is the second of 24 during the 2016 season and not having to play catch up already has DeJoria thinking big.
She qualified fourth in Pomona with an impressive 3.942-second sprint at 324.59 mph, picking up a round win in the process, and she continues to grow more comfortable at each event, even as adjustments are made to her Camry.
“I’ve acclimated to the changes that were made at the end of last season,” DeJoria said. “The way we have our Patrón Toyota Camry set up now, it wants to take you out of the groove more so than it ever did. The thrust is a lot heavier with the new headers and various other changes. Now with 100 professional Funny Car races under my belt, I feel more solid and more comfortable in my Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry.”
DeJoria is also motivated after watching Kalitta Motorsports teammate Del Worsham’s championship run in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship a year ago. Already a close-knit group, DeJoria, who has continually praised the camaraderie and unity of the two Top Fuel and two Funny Car teams, learned a number of valuable lessons as Worsham clinched his first Funny Car world championship.
It’s pushed her and the team, led by crew chief Tommy DeLago, to constantly improve and strive to do better. It’s also given DeJoria, who advanced to the Countdown for a second straight year and finished eighth in 2015, a new list of goals to shoot for during the 2016 campaign.
“It’s incredibly motivating for not only myself, but for the entire team,” DeJoria said. “It gives us a new outlook on the possibilities. We know we have the goods to win races. We have a great team. It’s just a matter of building on the consistency that we’ve started the season with. Towards the end of the year, that’s when it all truly counts and that’s what the DHL team did. They built on the consistency that they had at the beginning of the season and charged hard to the very end. That’s definitely something we can learn from.
“Also, having that communication between our two Funny Car teams and with Del as a driver is helpful. Del had all the new changes implemented on his Camry before I did. He experienced those changes and shared that information with me so I knew what to expect. Obviously you don’t know exactly what to expect until you experience it yourself, but it’s nice to have someone let you know what to look out for. Del has always been very generous with sharing information. He’s my mentor and has always been very helpful. I really appreciate that and I think it’ll help me perform better this year.”
While DeJoria already feels ahead of the game as compared to 2015, she’ll have to deal with a star-studded Funny Car field in Phoenix as she goes after a second win at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
Along with Worsham, DeJoria will face a strong lineup of challengers, including national record holder and seven-time 2015 winner Jack Beckman, 16-time world champ and eight-time Phoenix winner John Force, Tommy Johnson Jr., Ron Capps, who won the opener in Pomona, defending event winner Hagan, Courtney Force, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight.
“Returning to a track where we’ve been successful absolutely lifts our spirits,” DeJoria said. “Do I think because we’ve won in Phoenix before that it will make it easier for us to win again? No, not necessarily, but our spirits are definitely higher going back to a track where we have had success in the past.”
In Top Fuel, defending world champ and three-time Phoenix winner Antron Brown will battle against a tough field of contenders including U.S. Army dragster pilot Schumacher, the defending and five-time CARQUEST Nationals winner. Other challengers include talented Aussie Richie Crampton, Brittany Force, Doug Kalitta, Shawn Langdon, Steve Torrence, who won the season-opening race in Pomona, J.R. Todd and Quaker State dragster driver Leah Pritchett.
Competition is expected to be fierce in the new-look NHRA Pro Stock category and two-time defending world champ Erica Enders and her new Dodge Dart teammate, five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin, are both past winners at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Others expected to challenge for the victory in the 200-mph factory hot rod class include last year’s top rookie, Drew Skillman, tough Texan Chris McGaha, Shane Gray, Vincent Nobile, Bo Butner and veteran racers Allen Johnson, Greg Anderson, who won in Pomona, Jason Line, Larry Morgan and V. Gaines.
The sleek new Pro Stock cars will feature fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:30 and 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 27, also at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
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CARQUEST AUTO PARTS NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 32nd annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, the second of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Chandler, Ariz. Track is located off Interstate 10 at exit 162. Follow the signs.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Feb. 26-28.
FRIDAY, Feb. 26 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SATURDAY, Feb. 27- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, Feb. 28 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Feb. 27, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Feb. 28, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise three hours of finals coverage at 5 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Matt Hagan, Funny Car; Rodger Brogdon, Pro Stock
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC- 8; Bob Glidden, PS- 5; Tony Schumacher, TF- 5; Jack Beckman, FC- 3; Kenny Bernstein, TF-FC- 3; Antron Brown, TF-3; Ron Capps, FC-3; Larry Dixon, TF- 3; Cory McClenathan, TF- 3; Darrell Alderman, PS- 3; Kurt Johnson, PS- 3; Warren Johnson, PS- 3.
Top Fuel – 3.720 sec. by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ’15; 329.91 mph by Schumacher, Feb. ’13.
Funny Car – 3.975 sec. and 324.83 mph by Matt Hagan, Feb. ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.498 sec. and 213.77 mph by Mike Edwards, Feb. ’13.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.884 sec. by Jack Beckman, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif. and 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C. and 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the first of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
Top Fuel: 1. Steve Torrence, 106; 2. Doug Kalitta, 94; 3. Richie Crampton, 77; 4. J.R. Todd, 72; 5. Clay Millican, 57; 6. Morgan Lucas, 52; 7. Antron Brown, 48; 8. Terry McMillen, 46; 9. Tony Schumacher, 42; 10. Brittany Force, 37.
Funny Car: 1. Ron Capps, 119; 2. Del Worsham, 97; 3. Robert Hight, 80; 4. John Force, 69; 5. Jack Beckman, 65; 6. Courtney Force, 59; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 55; 8. Chad Head, 54; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 33; 10. (tie) Gary Densham, 32; Matt Hagan, 32; Cruz Pedregon, 32.
Pro Stock: 1. Greg Anderson, 125; 2. Jason Line, 105; 3. Bo Butner, 84; 4. Drew Skillman, 75; 5. Vincent Nobile, 54; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 53; 7. (tie) Shane Gray, 52; Allen Johnson, 52; 9. Chris McGaha, 35; 10. Alex Laughlin, 33.