Alexis DeJoria, the quickest woman in NHRA Funny Car drag racing history, raced her way to her fifth semi-final finish of the 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series at the 30th Annual NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Penn. on Sunday afternoon.
After qualifying in the No. 10 spot, Alexis DeJoria and the Patrón XO Cafe Toyota Camry Funny Car team entered Sunday’s eliminations matched up against their Kalitta Motorsports teammate, No. 7 qualifier Del Worsham, in the first round.
The air was crisp and cool on Sunday morning- a noticeable drop in temperature from Friday and Saturday’s qualifying sessions. While teams enjoy the fast race conditions the cool weather provides, the cold weather can sometimes be too much of a good thing. With temperatures in the low fifties during the first round of eliminations, both Kalitta Toyota Camry Funny Car teams watched several top-seeded cars struggle to get their tuning ‘just right’ to make full pulls down the 1,000-foot stretch.
DeJoria and Worsham were the very last nitro-burning cars to make a run in the opening round. Just like many of their competitors, both DeJoria and Worsham smoked the tires during their matchup. Worsham ran into trouble just before the 330-foot mark, while DeJoria drove her XO Cafe Toyota a little further down the race track before losing traction at the 660-foot mark. Both drivers were quick to react and get back on the throttle, but DeJoria had already gained a significant lead and was able to cross the stripe first.
“That was an exciting round for sure,” said the three-time Funny Car winner. “I had to pedal against my teammate, and at one point, I saw the wall and quickly turned the wheel and stomped on it again. Luckily I made it down there first.”
After defeating Worsham, the Patrón XO Cafe team faced Bob Tasca III in the second round of eliminations. DeJoria had yet to defeat Tasca in her three year Funny Car career. Tasca left the line first, but Alexis had caught him by the 330 foot mark, posting a 4.084 at 309.34 MPH to his losing 4.115 at 301.13 MPH.
“We didn’t have lane choice again in the next round, which wasn’t that big of a deal because we just kept getting better and better with each round. Beating Tasca was a huge round win for our team, and a big win for me personally. He’s had my number for quite a long time, so it was nice to finally give it back. I had a good light and our car made a great run. Once again, it didn’t give us the lane advantage, but with the way we ran in the semi-finals versus Matt Hagan, it ended up that it didn’t matter anyways.”
The semi-final match up would place DeJoria against former champ Matt Hagan. Hagan left first, with a 0.064 second reaction time to Alexis’ 0.078, and this was all the head-start he’d need to take the win. DeJoria exits on a hole-shot loss, her quicker 4.032 at 312.64 MPH losing to Hagan’s 4.043 at 319.60 MPH.
“In the semis we ran a 4.032 but unfortunately, Hagan also had a great run [4.043-seconds]. He beat me off the line by just a bit. I had a 0.078 [reaction time] to his 0.064, which wasn’t horrible, but wasn’t what I needed in that specific round. I needed to give it a little bit more on the starting line. Qualifying was a struggle this weekend, but we were able to really turn it around on race day today and pick up round wins, which is what matters most. I’m proud that we made it to the semis- especially after the last three races where we didn’t make it past the first round,” said the Austin, Texas resident.
DeJoria began the weekend seventh in the Countdown to the Championship points ranking. The semi-final finish earned DeJoria forty points towards her Countdown efforts, and moved the team ahead one spot from seventh to sixth. There are just two races left, and with the 14th Annual NHRA Toyota Nationals October 31- November 2 on the horizon, the Patrón XO Cafe team is hoping to put more points on the board and break back into the top half of the points rankings. The team has had much success at the Vegas dragstrip, having won there earlier this season, and finishing in the semi-finals at both Vegas races the year prior.