Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria was clearly caught in an emotional tug-of-war during her two-year hiatus from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
She was torn between tending to family matters at home in Austin, Texas — especially guiding her daughter Bella through this rite of passage — and that nagging need to feel the rush of a run in a 12,000-horsepower, nitromethane-burning race car.
DeJoria wanted it all — and had it all, but she needed a break from the crushing responsibilities in both worlds. Then, she discovered a way — or at least was determined to find a way — to juggle it all. Now, she’s back in the cockpit as a co-team owner with her longtime crew chief Del Worsham, as the first female Funny Car owner in the sport’s history.
“The problem was, I think I was letting family life and home life get the best of me at times,” DeJoria said. “It was hard to always put the blinders on. It’s hard on relationships. Sometimes it can be hard on the kids and hard on yourself, trying to balance everything. That’s another reason why I did take the two years off. It was so necessary for me to kind of straighten things out.
“My kids, my daughter, I just needed to be there … teach her how to drive. It was such a pivotal moment in her life,” DeJoria added. “I couldn’t parent by proxy. It was like, ‘You know, this is the perfect time for me to do this.’ I didn’t want to wake up one day and wonder where my kid went — off to college already — and it just happens in a flash.”
Joking that she “had a full emotional breakdown,” she said, “How do you go from over 300 mph to a standstill? That was tough to get over. But then I just really focused on being with my family and catching up on all the things I didn’t get to do before; (spending time with) my nieces and nephews, going to soccer games, traveling, riding my motorcycle and doing things like hobbies and things that I’ve always been interested in but didn’t really have time to do.
“I spent time with my husband (reality-TV personality and motorcycle builder Jesse James), went with him to some of his (Nitro Harley) races, which was pretty fun. So that was cool. I just really enjoyed my family, my kids, and that was it.”
On the other hand, DeJoria said, “They could see my head was kind of spinning — I always had one eye on the track. It was hard. It was hard to be there when I came up (from Austin) for the Dallas race. It was great in the pit: ‘Hey, guys!’ Then when they got towed up to the starting line, I was like, ‘Ugh. I should be in there. I should be in that car.’ It’s hard to be on the outside looking in.”
That was a temporary situation, in her mind, for she said, “I always knew I was going to come back. It was just a matter of time.
“Once I made that decision and talked to my family about it and talked to my daughter, of course, she was thrilled. She said, ‘I never wanted you to stop racing,’” DeJoria continued. “I said, ‘I know, honey, but later on in life you will understand this and feel good about it.’ I got their approval. It was a tough conversation with my husband at the time. But if you know me, you know this is where my hear is, and this is where I belong.”
The five-time winner has formed DC Racing, named by borrowing an initial from both herself and Worsham. The “D” stands for DeJoria and the “C” is for Charles, Worsham’s middle name. It has that DC Comics ring to it for these nitro superheroes.
“Superwoman and Nitro Boy,” she said with a giggle. “It was like wham! Bam! Within a month, we were going racing.”
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