Bristol, TN (June 17, 2012) The Kalitta Motorsports Tequila Patron Toyota Camry Funny Car team made their final round debut at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, TN today. After a string of first round losses, the Patron team, piloted by Alexis DeJoria, was able to break their first round curse and advance all the way to the Funny Car finals!
Despite the forecast calling for rain, the day’s events got underway without a hitch and Team Patron, lead by crew chief Top Fuel World Champion Del Worsham, found themselves going round after round at the Thunder Valley Nationals.
In round one, the Rookie of the Year contender faced John Force Racing’s Castrol GTX driver Mike Neff. DeJoria, who was honored by the Hot Rods for Heroes organization the previous evening, edged out the number two qualifier with her 4.29-second at 231.99-mph run. We really needed that first round win- finally making it past that round really set the tone for the day.
Round two found DeJoria facing teammate Jeff Arend, driver of the Kalitta Motorsports DHL Toyota Camry. In their first-ever square off, Arend was out of the gate first, but DeJoria was able to catch up to her Kalitta teammate, and the two were neck-and-neck at the 330-foot mark. The Patron Toyota Camry inched ahead and took the win by one-thousandth of a second, advancing the rookie-contending team to their first appearance in the semi-finals.
Up against Don Schumacher Racing’s “Fast Jack” Beckman in the semi-finals, DeJoria headed to the line hungry for a win. The black-and-green machine zipped past the Valvoline car, and DeJoria took the win with her 4.159-sec at 301.27-mph run versus Beckman’s 4.378-sec pass.
Team Patron was headed to the Finals! They found themselves up against yet another Schumacher car- the NAPA Auto Parts car driven by Ron Capps. DeJoria was quick off the line, with a .069-sec to his .066-sec reaction time. Unfortunately, the car smoked the tires and Capps took the win. According to Worsham, We tried to get after it because we knew we needed to run really hard. We knew Capps would run in the 4.0′s so we got a bit more aggressive, and unfortunately too much clutch setup caused the car to smoke the tires at around the 150-foot mark.
I’m speechless, said the runner-up driver. We qualified just barely, so to make it all the way to the finals has been so incredible, said the California girl, who is just one of two females competing in the Funny Car class. We were in the lesser [left] lane all day long, and Del’s big thing was jut trying to get me down there. I did the best I could on my lights, and thankfully, I just kept knocking them off one by one. We didn’t win, but I’m proud of how far we came from the number fifteen spot.
Every person I went up against was very tough. I admire, respect, and look up to every one of those guys. They’re my heroes. Just to be up there with them is incredible. We would’ve been super happy just to make it past first round. This was a dream come true. The fans have been fantastic out here! Every time we’ve won has been amazing. Our runs weren’t the fastest, but we were consistent, and our consistency paid off!
Prior to the start of the day’s races, Worsham, was awarded with the prestigious Shirl Greer Old Champs Choice award during the pre-race ceremonies. I was honored. Shirl Greer was one of the original Funny Car drivers I used to route for. I knew his family and kids pretty well, said Worsham.
According to Van Greer, son of the late Shirl Greer, We chose Del because he grew up racing with his dad, just like we did, he said referring to how he and his two brothers, Brian and Rusty, chose this year’s recipient. Worsham joins John Force and Mike Neff in the Shirl Greer award club.
Overall, it was just a great weekend. I’m so proud of our team, we did so well! I got to meet the Hot Rod for Heroes organization members, take place in the Ford Parade, and then Del got that award. It really doesn’t get much better than that! remarked DeJoria with a smile.
Currently, the Kalitta Motorsports Tequila Patron Toyota Camry Funny Car team is in thirteenth place, four points behind Tim Wilkerson for twelfth. They compete next at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, IL, June 28th-July 1st. Prior, event Funny Car winner Ron Capps will join DeJoria on her weekly Alexis DeJoria NHRA Racing Report radio show on RaceTalkRadio.com
About Alexis DeJoria
Alexis DeJoria, daughter of the famed John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems and proud owner of Tequila Patron, is a professional NHRA race car driver, competing in the Nitro Funny Car class on the Kalitta Motorsports team. She is their second Nitro Funny Car driver and fourth member of the team. Alexis drives a Tequila Patron-sponsored 2012 Toyota Camry.
Alexis had a successful career in the Top Alcohol Funny Car category where she co-owned and operated her team, and was one of the few females ever to do so. She left the TAFC category holding the title of Top Female Top Alcohol Funny Car Racer and 2011 NHRA Northwest Nationals TAFC event champion. Alexis made racing history when she competed in the first ever woman vs. woman race in her class in 2010, and she is the 2nd woman ever to win a TAFC race. She is currently the female world record holder for the fastest and quickest TAFC speeds. Alexis is also well-known for her infamous 2009 Englishtown, NJ crash.
Alexis, who had all the opportunity in the world to pursue any type of career, felt strongly about following her passion. She is proud to encourage and inspire young women to go after their dreams. Alexis need for adrenaline drove her to pursue the unlikely profession of auto-racing. The determination to blaze her own trail continues to drive her and push her to higher levels in the dangerous, male dominated sport of drag racing.
About Kalitta Motorsports
Based in Ypsilanti, Mich., Kalitta Motorsports is a Top Fuel and Funny Car drag racing team in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. The team was founded and is owned by drag racing icon Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta. For more than 50 years, Connie has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and an owner. Kalitta Motorsports is one of the most successful teams in the history of auto racing with five world championships and over 50 national event titles in five different professional drag racing sanctioning bodies since it was established by Connie in 1959.