NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

With strong recent performances, Alexis DeJoria is finally back on track

After a strong 3.85 run last night that has Alexis DeJoria qualified second in the Funny Car field, crew chief Del Worsham is ready to put behind them the rough stretch that went from the last race of 2023 and into the 2024 season.
27 Apr 2024
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Alexis DeJoria

To paraphrase William Shakespeare from Richard III, Alexis DeJoria and tuner Del Worsham have had their “winter of our discontent,” and the sun is ready to shine again on the Bandero Tequila team.

Entering Saturday of the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, DeJoria’s white GR Toyota Supra is the No. 2 qualifier with a 3.859 that is just a few ticks off the career-best she ran last year at zMAX Dragway. That’s a long way from where the team had been mired since last November

After a steady back half of 2022 and a strong start to 2023 that included multiple semifinals and then runner-ups in Charlotte, Bristol and Denver, the wheels slowly started coming off the white GR Toyota Supra late last season, culminating when DeJoria failed to qualify at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals and was joined on the sidelines by Worsham, who made a rare driving appearance in his personal car.

From the outside, it was easy to point the finger at Worsham for spreading himself too thin and hurting both efforts, but it was anything but. When the team returned to Pomona for this year’s Winternationals, DeJoria again was disappointingly outside the field come Saturday night. Prior to the two Pomonas, she’d only DNQ’d four times in 213 starts and now she had two in three starts.

“It kind of came to us easy the first half of last year now. and little by little it just started coming apart,” he assessed. “Ron Armstrong told me a long time ago, ‘the devil’s in the details,’ and I’ve never forgotten that, and that’s so true with nitro cars, and the details were just not there.

“I know it’s easy took at Pomona and blame it on trying to run two cars at the Finals, but that wasn’t it at all,” said Worsham, a championship-winning driver and crew chief. “Let's just say all our t's weren't crossed and all of the i's weren't dotted. There was some stuff that was slipping through the cracks procedure-wise and then we had some issues with our clutch discs. I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus, but stuff needed to change.”

Among the changes that happened was assistant crew chief Nicky Boninfante leaving to work with old buddy Jim Oberhofer on Clay Millican’s Top Fueler so suddenly Worsham became crew chief, assistant crew chief, car chief, and still the guy balancing the books for the team he co-own with DeJoria. 

But after a season-opening round-win at Gainesville, more trouble lay just down the road from Worsham's Southern California home.

“Then we came back to Pomona for the Winternationals this year and the track was very tricky and we didn’t get all of the qualifying runs so everything needs to be perfect and it wasn’t,” he said. “It was frustrating. I thought it was gonna go and didn't, but the exact same tune-up was in the car when we went .85 last night. It's hard to explain and understand”

The ship seemed to be righted by the time the tour got to Phoenix, where DeJoria reached the final but was out-run by Austin Prock, 3.95 to 4.04, on what was another tough track. The 4-Wide Nationals in Vegas seemed like another step in the right direction and she advanced to the second round before finishing third by a smidge behind Prock and Bob Tasca III.

A strong opening lap of 3.99 in Charlotte was followed by the 3.85, and Worsham is happier, but still not happy yet.

“You don't really know until you get through [the four-wides, where each team only gets one run in each lane during qualifying],” he said. “Until you get to Chicago -- where each lane gets more runs -- and Norwalk and Epping, you don't really know where you stand. At Bristol, you really find out where you are, running in the summer on a bumpy track. Your stuff has got to be an order and then you do well.

“Right now, there’s a lot of good morale in the team because they can see that their hard work is paying off and Alexis will only get better now that she knows that she has a consistent car underneath her.”