Funny Car race winner Alexis DeJoria will sit out the NHRA Finals at Pomona due to injury, the second time this season her campaign has been blighted in this manner, and her place will be taken by Jeff Arend.
DeJoria suffered an accident in qualifying at Sonoma Raceway in July that left her with a fractured pelvis, and physicians advised her to skip the following events at Seattle and Brainerd. She returned to the Tequila Patron Kalitta Motorsports Toyota Camry for the US Nationals in Indianapolis, although she fell to teammate and reigning Funny Car champion Del Worsham in the first round.
DeJoria continued to make fields throughout the first five races of a six-race Countdown and won a single battle in eliminations at Texas, her home state. However, in the penultimate round of the season at Las Vegas, where she won in April, it all went wrong for DeJoria and her team after qualifying ninth on Friday evening with a 3.909/326.32mph run.
In the third, Saturday qualifying session, as she completed her run, DeJoria’s car had a series of mechanical calamities that sent her bucking Camry towards the shut-down area, gyrating from side to side before making contact with the left-side wall.
Upon impact, DeJoria’s head whipped hard into the left roll cage head pad but and while she climbed out unassisted, and initially said she felt fine, she awoke on Sunday morning with concussion-like symptoms.
The team elected not to run their driver and withdrew from the race to focus on Pomona. Returning home to Austin, DeJoria consulted with physicians and was indeed diagnosed with a concussion by Texas Sport and Family Medicine, a conclusion that customarily results in a two-week recovery period.
“I underwent a series of cognitive tests and the doctors diagnosed me with a full-blown concussion that required me to step away from the seat for the time being,” DeJoria said. “To go out and get behind the wheel of a 10,000-horsepower race car with its high g-forces and the possibility of tire shake, would just be too traumatic for my head in its sensitive state.
“I’ve never been a quitter and never will be, but I must accept my fate and sit this last race out.”
After consulting with team patriarch Connie Kalitta and with her father, John Paul DeJoria, the consensus was to bring in Jeff Arend, who was racing the DHL Camry now in Worsham’s hands, back when DeJoria began her Kalitta Motorsports career. Arend helped DeJoria attain her Funny Car license in 2011.
“I’m extremely honored and excited to drive the Patron Toyota Camry in Pomona,” said La Verne, Calif. resident Arend. “I look forward to representing Alexis and Patron, and hopefully putting this car in the Winners Circle in front of my family and friends.”
DeJoria has been ordered to stay home and rest, which means she won’t be able to travel by air to Southern California for the 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals. “It’s going to be hard for me not to be there, but I’m thinking long term. I need to get myself healthy and focus on coming back strong next year,” said the four-time Funny Car race winner.