The 2024 season of NHRA's Mission Foods Drag Racing Series will mark the 13th anniversary of Alexis DeJoria's debut in the blistering nitro Funny Car category, and the driver of the Bandero Premium Tequila Toyota GR Supra is ready after a year of promise that ended on a decidedly unpleasant note. More than redemption, DeJoria simply wants to get back to what she and the DC Motorsports team know they're capable of.
Last season started with a pair of semifinal finishes for DeJoria, and by the second race of the year, she was playing the game in earnest as a top qualifier in her boldly charging Toyota. Her start from the No. 2 position in Phoenix was followed by a pair of identical back-to-back starts from second, and at the spring four-wide race in Charlotte, she reached the first of three final rounds of the season.
Early in the season and into the summer, DeJoria's name was echoing through the pits as a genuine contender for the championship.
"We probably had the best start to a season that we've had since we started DC Motorsports," said DeJoria, who joined forces with team owner and crew chief Del Worsham in 2020 after a two-season respite. "Everything that we had put into this team, everything we had accomplished, everything we had gained as far as knowledge and time, it was really, really paying off. Our car was one of the quickest cars on the lot at any given moment, and we really thought we were going to continue that success throughout the year."
A batch of what DeJoria called "not-so-great" clutch discs began to dissipate the steam that had been building, however, and as the team filtered them into circulation, a series of other mishaps began to occur as well – many of which, DeJoria went on to say, were out of their hands. The ups and the downs showed in the results. After Charlotte, DeJoria was No. 2 in the Funny Car standings, but back-to-back first-round losses sent her down to sixth. A final round in Bristol elevated her to fifth in the points, and another final in Denver brought her all the way back up to No. 3.
But there were fewer "ups" as the season wore on. The team's race car showed great promise in spurts — another No. 2 qualifying position in Sonoma and then a start from No. 3 at the NHRA U.S. Nationals gave evidence of their potential — but a disheartening waterfall of early exits on race day sent their year spinning. The worst of it came at the season closer in Pomona when DeJoria missed the field for the first time since 2012.
"It was a shift in our performance that none of us were expecting," said the driver who concluded the year ranked No. 11. "We had such a great start, so it was definitely a surprise, but these cars are unpredictable. You can start off on a great note, and then when it's really time to shine, sometimes it'll take a turn. It makes you think, and you wish it could have happened on the flipside, that we would have had those issues in the beginning and worked them out toward the end. But it's all trial and error, and we learned so much from everything that happened. All of that is going to be put forth into this new season."
DeJoria stated that the team's biggest challenge in the new year will be consistency.
"Consistency is also what I'm most looking forward to," she continued. "Taking what we've accomplished and what things we didn't do so great last season, really learning from those things and [getting] that consistency, that's going to be the No. 1 thing for our team this year."
When DeJoria made her debut in the blazingly fast, crushingly fickle nitro Funny Car category at Texas Motorplex in 2011, she did so on her birthday weekend and on the heels of her first national event win in Top Alcohol Funny Car just two months prior. It was a time of celebration and optimism, a mark of enormous determination and dedication coming to fruition, and even now, she can recall those days of glimmer and hope and appreciate the class for all that it is.
"The unpredictability of these cars is part of the reason I chose this class," said DeJoria. "It's so demanding, and it's so competitive. You're constantly striving for perfection in a very much unperfect world. That's drag racing. I feel lucky that I've made it to 13 years, for everything I've done and all the times I've had success. It's just an incredible, incredible class to be part of."