Alexis DeJoria, driver of Kalitta Motorsports’ Toyota Camry NHRA Funny Car, has decided to retire. Anne Proffit pays tribute to a racer who did more than just race.
DeJoria, the winner at Brainerd this year, who barely missed qualifying for NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship despite skipping the races at Charlotte and Topeka due to family concerns, has decided it’s time to hang up her helmet after Pomona’s season finale next month.
“It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and I will miss everyone so much,” she said. “My reasoning behind the decision is simple: it’s time for me to switch my focus towards my family. I’ve accomplished great things throughout my NHRA career.”
The 40-year-old California-born Texas resident began her NHRA career in 2005, and to make it to the pro ranks, she needed to gain victories in each rung of her Lucas Oil Sportsman career. After Super Gas, DeJoria tackled Super Comp where she won the SportsNationals within eight months of her NHRA debut. In Top Alcohol Funny Car (TAFC), she became only the second woman in history to earn a national TAFC event title.
Finally she made her professional Funny Car debut at the Texas NHRA FallNationals in September 2011 and became a winner, and said that her time at Kalitta was fulfilling despite recent setbacks.
“Working with Kalitta Motorsports and driving for Connie Kalitta has been an absolute honor,” she said, “The man is a legend. He’s been the best boss I could have ever hoped for as a professional nitro Funny Car pilot.”
She lauded the team’s heart, VP of operations Jim Oberhofer, her crew chiefs Nicky Boninfante and Tommy DeLago and, especially, “the entire organization I’ve had the pleasure of working with these last six-plus years. I got to work with and learn from the best.”
Oberhofer responded: “I am very proud that she is taking the time to spend with her family. I know very well how precious that time is and how easily it can get away from you. Alexis will always be a part of our Kalitta family and we wish her nothing but the best.”
During her six-plus years competing in NHRA’s premier professional Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Funny Car class, DeJoria earned five national event wins, including victory at the prestigious U.S. Nationals.
She has four No. 1 qualifiers and has appeared in eight final rounds. Prominent among her achievements is DeJoria’s status as the first woman to break the four-second barrier in the flopper class; she is the first woman to compete in 100 NHRA Funny Car events.
Although she’s got only three opportunities remaining to earn round wins and Wally trophies, DeJoria anticipates no slow-down for the balance of her career as a drag racer.
“We still have three races left. By no means is it over yet. We still have a fighting and winning attitude; I’ve got a great car and an excellent team,” she said.
Always gracious to the multitudes that line up to meet her outside the team’s work and hospitality area, DeJoria expressed special gratitude for NHRA fans.
“I want to thank our incredible fans and everyone who has supported our team along the way. A huge thank you to The Patron Spirits Company, Toyota and all of our sponsors who have had our backs these years.“
Alexis DeJoria has battled through mechanical and physical accidents on the racetrack, needing to remove herself from competition last year due to two accidents in competition. Still she persevered and showed that she belongs in the Funny Car garages and on each dragstrip where NHRA competes.
In addition, her “Free Mammograms for the Fans” continues this October, a program that has allowed more than 440 free mammography screenings during Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) since 2013. Now in its fifth year, the program is on track to reach the major milestone of 500 free screenings, with access at both this weekend’s Dallas race and during the penultimate contest in Las Vegas toward the end of the month.
Said DeJoria: “Early detection is key. Don’t wait and don’t be shy, ladies. Come out to the Dallas and Las Vegas events and take advantage of this opportunity.”
NHRA isn’t just losing a proactive and successful racer when Alexis DeJoria retires after the 24th race of the year in Pomona. It’s saying goodbye to a racer who has promoted the health and well-being of race fans.