FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FUNNY CAR RISING STAR ALEXIS DEJORIA EMBRACING COUNTDOWN SPOTLIGHT DURING BREAKOUT YEAR AT AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS
MADISON, Ill. — When Alexis DeJoria arrives at Gateway Motorsports Park for the third annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals on Sept. 26-28 she will do so with the hopes of winning her fourth Funny Car race of what has already been a tremendous 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
But appearing in her first Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship DeJoria also has her focus on winning a world championship in her 10,000-horsepower Patron XO Café Toyota Camry. That dual focus is one of the major challenges of the Countdown, but DeJoria, who currently sits in fourth in the Countdown standings, has embraced the additional spotlight the championship race brings.
“Now it’s not just about winning that particular race, it’s about winning the Championship,” DeJoria said. “It’s a higher level of intensity when you factor that in, and there is certainly more pressure on everyone. We seem to do our best under pressure, and I always love a challenge.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals also marks the halfway point of the six-race Countdown to the Championship and is the third of four straight race weekends.
The one round and one race at a time mantra still holds true for DeJoria, but she is also looking at the big prize, which is the Countdown to the Championship. DeJoria has an aggressive mindset and that includes picking up every point she can in qualifying and obviously in eliminations. Knowing what is on the line, DeJoria is well aware she can’t leave anything on the table.
“Generally, you do take each race as its own and try not to get ahead of yourself, but being that there are only a few races left it is important to think of the big picture,” DeJoria said. “This is crunch time and you want to perform at your very best right now. You want to get points any way you possibly can: qualifying points, Sunday points, they all matter. It’s now or never.”
DeJoria has certainly taken command of the moment during her breakout 2014 season, posting victories in Phoenix, Las Vegas and of course the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis where she knocked off John Force in a thrilling final round. The three victories mark the first Funny Car wins of her professional career, another indication of the continuous strides she has made as a driver.
But DeJoria has been just as impressed with her team’s consistency throughout the season, a nod to the outstanding work the entire Kalitta Motorsports team has done in 2014. All four team cars have qualified for the Countdown, including Del Worsham in Funny Car and Doug Kalitta and J.R. Todd in Top Fuel. That backbone of a strong team is important during the NHRA playoffs but DeJoria also isn’t taking anything for granted despite the strong performance in Indy.
“It’s very reassuring knowing that I have a strong team and strong car that’s made it down the track, more often than not,” DeJoria said. “But it’s drag racing and there are a lot of variables. You just do the very best you can. There are never any guarantees in this sport.”
That holds true in a major way in Funny Car where the list of Countdown participants is an impressive one. A year ago, 16-time and reigning world champ Force used St. Louis as a springboard to his 2013 world championship and has three wins at the facility. Ron Capps also has three St. Louis wins while other top challengers include Robert Hight, Courtney Force, Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr., Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Worsham.
Racing in St. Louis could also bring out the best in DeJoria, who is a big fan of Gateway Motorsports Park and the atmosphere surrounding the event.
“The city is really cool and I really enjoy being out at that track,” DeJoria said. “The fans are always great.”
Brown, the 2012 world champ, is the two-time defending winner of the St. Louis event in Top Fuel and is chasing point leader Doug Kalitta, who has three St. Louis wins. Tony Schumacher has two career victories at the track while other championship contenders in the Countdown include reigning world champion Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, Brittany Force, Khalid alBalooshi, Steve Torrence, J.R. Todd and rookie Richie Crampton, who won the most recent event in Indy.
In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens returns to Gateway Motorsports Park as one of the top contenders for the world championship. Enders-Stevens, the two-time defending race winner, has four wins on the season but currently trails red-hot points leader Jason Line in the Countdown. Reigning champ Jeg Coughlin leads a list of championship hopefuls in Pro Stock and also features Allen Johnson, Dave Connolly, Vincent Nobile, Chris McGaha, Shane Gray, Jonathan Gray and V Gaines.
Smith was victorious in Pro Stock Motorcycle last season en route to his second world championship. Smith is after his first win in 2014 while chasing the two-bike team of points leader Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec, who enters the Countdown in second. Hector Arana Jr., Hector Arana, Steve Johnson, Michael Ray, John Hall, Angie Smith and Scotty Pollacheck are all also in the title hunt in the two-wheel category. Also returning to competition in the bike category will be three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, who will be riding the Star Racing Buell owned by George Bryce.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Sept. 26, with sessions at 2:15 and 4:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Sept. 27, at 1:15 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Gateway Motorsports Park at (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845) or visitwww.gatewaymsp.com. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
Before the NHRA Mello Yello Series arrives in Illinois for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the circuit will visit the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, Sept. 18-21, for the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. Keep up with all the action on ESPN2.