Alexis DeJoria Second Chance by Kelly Crandall at

Alexis DeJoria Second Chance by Kelly Crandall at

By Kelly Crandall | July 27, 2021 2:08 PM ET
Kelly has been on the NASCAR beat full-time since 2013, and joined RACER as chief NASCAR writer in 2017. Her work has also appeared in, the NASCAR Illustrated magazine, and NBC Sports. A corporate communications graduate from Central Penn College, Crandall is a two-time George Cunningham Writer of the Year recipient from the National Motorsports Press Association.

KellyCrandall (@Kelly Crandall) Tweeted: "Toward the end of those last few years, I had an incredible team of great crew chiefs, great car, great team owner, great sponsors. Everything. And to walk away from that was the hardest thing I've ever done." Now @AlexisDejoria is back where she belongs.

Alexis DeJoria was exultant. The Funny Car driver, who had solidified her No. 2 qualifier status at the Sonoma Nationals the night before, had finished warming up her Toyota Camry (including whacking the throttle to send a garbage can flying and a fan falling over) when she enthusiastically popped out.

DeJoria bounced into her hauler, removed and put away her gas mask, and then peeked out and bounded over to the crew. She playfully smacked one and interacted with others while looking eager for the day ahead.

Welcome to the second act of Alexis DeJoria, and in this edition, life is settled and peaceful.

“I love her this time more, I think, because her attitude and her demeanor are a little bit different,” Paul Doleshal, Toyota group manager for motorsports and assets, tells RACER. “She’s more confident and more aware of things now, and I think she is having a lot more fun doing it, and it’s great to see. I want for her to have a good time and it to be fun and to win, and she’s just coming from a different and better place, and it’s great.”

Finding peace between work and home has been a journey. After a two-year sabbatical, DeJoria, 43, returned to the NHRA last season as driver and co-owner of DC Motorsports with Del Worsham. She’s done so with an admitted different level of maturity, growth, and acceptance.

Following a two-year sabbatical, Dejoria returned to the NHRA last season as co-owner of DC Motorsports with Del Worsham.

Stepping away was necessary at the time, but coming back was always the plan. DeJoria, who drove for Kalitta Motorsports, had come to the hard realization by 2017 that her family needed her more. In truth, her marriage required fixing.

“Toward the end of those last few years, I had an incredible team of great crew chiefs, great car, great team owner, great sponsors. Everything,” DeJoria tells RACER. “And to walk away from that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had to do it; it was necessary. It was for my family.

“A lot of people were like, ‘What the hell are you doing? You’re at the top of your game right now,’ but I was doing my team a disservice, and I was doing my family a disservice because when I was at the track, I was worried about my family and what was going on at home. When I was at home, I was worried about my race car. So, after a while, something is going to suffer, and both sides were suffering. There was just too much turmoil at home, and I needed to be home.”

Daughter Isabella was turning 16 at the time, and DeJoria wanted to teach her how to drive. DeJoria and now ex-husband Jesse James were also having issues.

“It just was really difficult, and I didn’t feel like it was fair to my team because they could tell I wasn’t there,” DeJoria says. “I was too worried about what’s going on over here because I lost that support. It’s so hard to be in a relationship, married or whatnot, and I don’t know how it is for the guys; I feel like it’s worse for me because I’m a female, and it’s not normal for chicks to have this sort of job, but it’ll bring the worst out in people, their insecurity. Very tough, strong men will get very insecure real fast. It’s hard.

“If things are right and things are solid, the confidence that headspace puts you in is amazing. Like right now, I don’t have a care in the world.”

In the end, as DeJoria returned to racing in 2020, she and James had split while Isabella blossomed into a young adult enjoying what the world has to offer. Work and home are healthy again, and Isabella is happy that mom is happy and questioned DeJoria when she stopped racing.

“She’s like, ‘I never asked you to do this,’” DeJoria says “She’s like, ‘Mom, you’ve always raced. That’s what I’ve always known you to do.’ She (said), ‘The fact that you would (stop) is incredible, but you’re not happy.’ And I’m like, ‘But you guys are happy, right? I just want to make sure everyone else is happy,’ and then she goes, ‘Mom, when are you going back racing? I don’t know if I like this helicopter mom.’

“I tried really hard, but things went south with my marriage, and I had to make a decision that was best for myself and my daughter. I’m so grateful, so, so grateful that I was able to step back into this sport and work with incredible and the best people ever with Toyota, that still had my back after everything – thank you so much, my God – and was able to handpick a team with Del Worsham.”

Working with Kalitta was a dream, and DeJoria learned a ton. It prepared her for this opportunity since she and Worsham routinely discussed the idea of potentially doing something together in the future. During the time that DeJoria was away, she stayed in contact with Worsham and co-crew chief Nicky Boninfante, “and every month or so we would talk and then we’d be like, ‘so when are we going to do this? When’s it going to happen? We’re going to make it happen.’”

Last year, it did. While everyone on the team knew each other previously, they were new together as a group, and building a team from the ground up was hard. Fortunately, Worsham had done so before and already had a shop (based in Orange County, California), the trucks and trailers from his driving days, and then it came down to getting parts and pieces.

“I have to give credit where credit is due: Del Worsham is a badass, and he made that happen,” DeJoria says. “He, his wife, and his dad are just incredible. And Matt [Bynum], my car chief, does a lot.”

When Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson heard DeJoria wanted to come back, he thought it was “almost serendipitous.” DeJoria rejoining the Toyota fold is a chance to finish their story.

“She’s a racer’s racer,” Wilson tells RACER. “I don’t need to talk about her being female – she’s a racer’s racer, and she is a badass. And I love that she’s part of our family. I love that she’s proud to be part of our family and makes no bones about it.”

Adds Doleshal, “It’s good to have the diversity of her being back, really rounding us out again a little bit. Alexis, she’s a tough hot rod gal. She lives that. Nitro, she loves it. Riding motorcycles. But she’s also a mom, and the connection she can make with a lot of people is huge, and we love having that story to tell.”

DeJoria and Worsham go way back. Worsham is a former Funny Car and Top Fuel champion and a big believer in DeJoria. DeJoria was licensed in his car, considers him a mentor, and she always admired Worsham and John Force as the “baddest on the block.”

“She’s resilient,” Worsham tells RACER. “She’s tough; we don’t talk about her in terms of male or female, she’s a tough racer. And she’s a tough person in general. She has a Funny Car driver’s mentality – she’s a girl, but she has a ton of grit. When you drive Funny Cars, you have to be tough – I have the scars on my hands to prove it – and she’s that kind of person.”

Sonoma, where DeJoria was the second-fastest qualifier, showed how far the team has come in a short amount of time. DeJoria’s qualified top two in five of the season’s opening nine races, and made the semifinals at Sonoma, which was her fourth appearance in the last six races. (She’s made the semifinals or beyond seven times in the previous 13 events). She lost to Matt Hagan, the same driver DeJoria fell to in the finals the week prior in Denver.

“We’ve been working towards this,” DeJoria says. “We knew this was going to happen. We knew we were going to do well, it was just a matter of time.”

New team growing pains aside, it’s DeJoria who’s putting in the work behind the wheel. She takes it hard when she makes mistakes. It means so much to DeJoria for her team to have success, and she wants them to be proud of their work.

“I feel like I’m letting them down,” says DeJoria. “On the flip side, they feel like they’re letting me down if the car doesn’t make it or run good or blows up. I’m like, ‘No man, this is what we do.’ I said, ‘Have my back, and I got your back.’”

DeJoria has qualified within the top two in five of the opening nine rounds of the 2021 NHRA season.

Reaction time is an area DeJoria has been focusing on to be more consistent. She admits she’s been trying to red light to find where the line is. Other than that, after two years away, DeJoria hasn’t had much to re-acclimatize to, and didn’t forget the little things.

“It was a nice surprise,” DeJoria says. “The speed, that was something you forget after not being in the car for a while. That got my attention again and got me excited. After going over 300 miles an hour on a consistent basis, you really lose your sense of speed. It feels fast, but not as fast anymore.

“You take two years off and then get back in that car, it’s like, ‘Woah, this is fast. This is why I do this.’ It was kind of a cool experience to be able to do that and be able to appreciate what I get to do all over again.”

DeJoria, Worsham, and all involved are now about wins. Confidently so.

“We are (going to win),” Worsham says.

“We’re just getting better and better,” DeJoria says. “The more information we get, the tighter we get, the better we do. We’re going to be unstoppable.”

“The better the car does, the more confidence I have in my abilities to do well too,” DeJoria continues. “But it is humbling. They give you a great car, and sometimes, we’re human, and we’ll make mistakes and maybe not get the best reaction time, which I’ll beat the hell out of myself for. Then other times, I’ll do really well, and the car will drop cylinders and won’t make it to the finish line.

“It’s definitely a team effort. Right now, we’re on a roll, and it’s just going to get better. We’re going to win very soon.”

DeJoria is a five-time Funny Car winner, and each run she makes is rebuilding her confidence and maybe even herself.

“I’m back where I belong,” DeJoria says of coming back as she did. “I’m back in my happy place.”

Article Credit: Kelly Crandall

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Alexis DeJoria Second Chance by Kelly Crandall at
Alexis DeJoria Second Chance by Kelly Crandall at
Alexis DeJoria Second Chance by Kelly Crandall at
Alexis DeJoria Second Chance by Kelly Crandall at


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