Alexis DeJoria has had a busy start to her young season in her second campaign.
Unlike last year, in her rookie campaign, DeJoria had to deal with an added distraction of planning her wedding to customizer Jesse James, which took place in March in California. In addition, her program with the Tequila Patron Funny Car had to start all over this season.
She had to take a step back with the new changes to her team, but DeJoria believes these changes are for the long-term. Last year, Del Worsham was her crew chief before he decided to take a new job for this season.
“Not really, because I’m new,” said DeJoria. “We just have to get the tune ups right, so everything will progress well into the future.”
While DeJoria is only in her second full season on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Tommy DeLago is stranger to the series. He actually returned to his former employer with this move.
DeLago worked for Kalitta Motorsports from 1996 through 1999.
Yet, while DeLago is her new crew chief, DeJoria said she still has a good relationship with Worsham. She said she will go to him for advice when needed.
“When I need it, I definitely hit him up,” said DeJoria. “We’ll then go back and forth, as he can tell me when he sees something that’s off. For the most part, I’ll in good stand with him, and I take it as it comes. If something comes up, I’ll definitely go talk to Del about it.”
The mentor and student are now teammates within the Kalitta Motorsports camp. Worsham was hired to replace Jeff Arend, as the driver of the DHL Funny Car, which came the same day as DeLago being named DeJoria’s new crew chief.
The new teammates are in a strange position that they were not in last year. Now, they both want to win and if it means, eliminating the other, then so be it.
“Teammate first, competitor second,” said DeJoria of Worsham. “So far I haven’t had to race him in eliminations, but we’ve come up against each other in qualifying. That’s fun, too. When that day comes; it’s going to be like any other driver, I’m going fast just as hard to get down the lane first.”
DeLago and Worsham have had two different styles of tuning her Funny Car. But DeJoria enjoys the opportunity to work with DeLago.
“It’s been good,” said DeJoria. “I had some great times with Del, as my teacher and mentor. He still very much is from a driver aspect. Tommy (DeLago) brings some things that are a little different – he hasn’t driven a car, but he has tuned a car for quite a long time. And he has worked with new drivers, as well, so I think he brings a lot to the table. But it is so nice to still have Del and our whole group together. We all gel very well together, and we’re making progress.”
With the change, DeJoria would like to have the same success that DeLago had with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan. Just two years ago, Hagan won the Funny Car championship in his second year.
“I certainly believe that,” said DeJoria. “But I know that it takes time, and we may not see it this season in our first year. I think within the next three years, we should definitely be in contention. Who knows? We could really do well towards later this year. As far as my expectations, we’re starting from scratch, all over again, but we’re making progress.”
While the team is making progress, DeJoria has her mind on some stepping stones. First, she said she must win her first race.
“Right now, as I mentioned, we’re making progress,” said DeJoria. “In order to have success, like DeLago has previously had, we have to be able to compete to win our first race. After we win that race, whenever that will be, we have to build off of that to contend for the championship. That’s the reason why I’m out here – that’s the reason why every full-time Funny Car driver is out here.”