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Alexis DeJoria Wins Thunder Valley Nationals

Racing at one of her favorite tracks on the NHRA circuit veteran driver Alexis DeJoria won for the sixth time in her career and first time with her new Bandero Premium Tequila ROKiT Toyota Camry team today at Bristol Dragway, home of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. Almost a decade ago in 2012 during her rookie season DeJoria raced to the final round but was unable to seal the deal. Today in front of a packed house that roared with every win light DeJoria, the No. 1 qualifier, defeated Paul Lee, earned a second round bye, Robert Hight and J.R. Todd to secure her first win of the 2021 season.



“Round one always makes me want to throw up in my helmet,” said DeJoria. “It’s the worst round for me. It’s not nerves, I just want to get past first round. After that, it gets better. We got the win and I’ll just leave it at that. Then we got the bye in round two which was a gift this week. We just haven’t had much luck.”

“The first two rounds went great. Obviously, we made it down the track with another good run on our bye run. Just to make it to the semis and the finals was a huge deal. I was just happy to make it to another final and have it be against another Toyota Funny Car. Two Toyota cars in the finals, it couldn’t be better than that. Even though I’m not teammates with J.R. anymore, all of those guys are always going to be teammates to me. We’re Toyota cars and we’re friends and I was just there a long time. I love racing him and I think that’s why I have such good lights against him.”

Bristol Dragway has held a special place in DeJoria’s memory going back to her rookie season. Racing as a team car for Kalitta Motorsports with Del Worsham as her mentor and crew chief the young driver raced to the final round. Today, once again partnered with Worsham, this time as co-owners of their own team, the Bristol experience was even more special. 

“Bristol is a very special track to me,” said DeJoria. “When Del was my crew chief in 2012, this was the first place where we went to a final round and lost a great race to Ron Capps. So, to come back here together again and make it to the final and then win means the world to me. This is one of my favorite tracks, if not my favorite. It’s just beautiful here and all the sounds and the people. I just love it here.”

After a final round appearance at Denver earlier this season and multiple semifinal appearances the pressure to secure a victory in 2021 was mounting with every event. The team knew they had the pieces to win but getting them to align on race day was problematic. Once DeJoria saw the fourth win light today the emotions poured out of the now six-time national event winner.

“It’s a huge weight taken off our shoulders,” said DeJoria. “We were number one qualifier and that was the first step. Getting that elusive number one after getting a ton of number twos, that was amazing. Then to get the Wally at the same race is insane. Whatever happens after this, I just hope for the best, but we’re good because we got a Wally. This is a huge confidence builder for me and our whole team. We knew we could do this, it’s just a matter of time.”

For the fifth consecutive Countdown race a different Funny Car driver captured the Wally. The category has never been as deeply competitive with drivers throughout the Top Ten vying for round wins and victories. The win was as significant to DeJoria as her 2014 U.S. Nationals victory the veteran driver explained to the Bristol media. 

“I would say it’s one of the biggest because as a part-team owner definitely,” said DeJoria. “Coming back after taking the two years off and getting to work with my mentor, old teammate and friend in Del Worsham. I look up to him and I learned everything I know from Del. To be able to do this with him again and do something we couldn’t do at Kalitta when he ended up driving the other car. But we always wanted to do this again and we were able to make it happen.”

After outrunning Hight in the semifinals with the quickest Funny Car run of the day, 3.904 seconds, DeJoria had lane choice over her Toyota teammate Todd, but she knew it would be a tough race. Todd had defeated his own monster list of opponents that included two points leaders, Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, as well as 16-time Funny Car champion John Force.

“It’s hard when the tree is long like that. For us, it seems like an eternity in the car. You’ve got your foot off the clutch, and you’re holding the brake and have the fuel on the high side and you’re just sitting there,” explained DeJoria. “Luckily, I was hungry and know that feeling in the finals it was like I was back in Indianapolis. I was up there saying, I’m just happy to be here and I’m going to do a damn good job and I’m going to win.”