Alexis DeJoria was finally able to snap a four-year winless streak Sunday afternoon and nearly had a picture-perfect weekend that started on Saturday.
Despite not having the best qualifying efforts in the first and second rounds, (seventh and eighth), the Bandero Premium Tequila ROKiT Toyota Camry driver picked it up in Q3 and earned her first No.1 qualifier since 2016.
On race day, the Los Angeles, California native went all four rounds eliminating Paul Lee, a solo run in the second round, a semi-final victory against Robert Hight and eventually winning against J.R. Todd.
Let’s take a look at where the other Funny Car drivers finished and what they had to say afterward.
- Alexis DeJoria (Finished First) – “It’s a huge weight taken off our shoulders,” said DeJoria. “We were number one qualifier and that was the first step. Getting that elusive number one after getting a ton of number twos, that was amazing. Then to get the Wally at the same race is insane. Whatever happens after this, I just hope for the best, but we’re good because we got a Wally. This is a huge confidence builder for me and our whole team. We knew we could do this, it’s just a matter of time. I would say it’s one of the biggest because, as a part-team owner, definitely. Coming back after taking the two years off and getting to work with my mentor, old teammate and friend in Del Worsham. I look up to him and I learned everything I know from Del. To be able to do this with him again and do something we couldn’t do at Kalitta when he ended up driving the other car. But we always wanted to do this again and we were able to make it happen.
- J.R. Todd (Finished second, sits third in points, -83) – Todd qualified 12th and was runner-up to DeJoria and knocked out, then Funny Car Championship points leader, Matt Hagan, in the first round. He won over legend John Force in the quarterfinals and once again knocked out new points leader, Ron Capps, in the semis. Todd fell to DeJoria after going 3.929 seconds and 326.32 mph. “We were in a little better position in 2018,” said Todd. “Going into the Countdown this year I knew that we had a good enough car and team to contend for a championship. We have had some hiccups along the way, but we are still in the hunt. We have to keep our heads up and keep fighting.”
- Robert Hight (Finished third, qualified fifth, fell to DeJoria in the semis, sits seventh in the points -153 behind first) – “We qualified well this weekend. We put up some good runs, thought we had a competitive Chevy. We got outrun today, wish things were different. But we’re still out here to win. There are two races left in the season and we’ll be out there just like everyone else looking for wins.”
- Ron Capps (Finished fourth, took over the points lead and leads by one point over teammate Hagan. He fell to J.R. Todd in the semis and was later disqualified due to hitting the cylinder blocks. Capps had the fastest speed of 329.83 mph) – “This is an all-out battle. We talk about the Countdown to the Championship and talk about how much tighter it seems this year. A lot of press people and media were saying it’s just Matt Hagan and me still in the hunt, and I’m quick to caution everyone because there are so many other cars who can step up and run great and we’ve seen that today with J.R. Todd and that DHL team and Alexis DeJoria. J.R. beat Matt first round and knocked us out in the semis. By no means, especially with Pomona (Calif.) being points-and-a-half, is this thing over. We wanted to grab more points while we were here at Bristol this weekend. The good thing is, we lead the points going into Vegas. It’s almost even. We’re having so much fun and we still have such a great NAPA hot rod and we showed that with qualifying second and making three solid, consistent laps. I’m excited about going to Vegas.”
- Cruz Pedregon – (Finished fifth, sits fifth and is tied with John Force in the points standings, fell to Ron Capps in the quarterfinals.) – “A second round appearance for the Snap-on Tools Nitro Funny Car team today at Bristol Dragway. Cruz and team were able to take down Dave Richards in the first round with a 3.96, but ended up falling to Ron Capps in an extremely close race (3.916 to 3.920) and the next round. The championship points have tightened up with two events left. We will head back to Indianapolis tomorrow and start getting our parts and pieces finalized for the final two events of the NHRA season.” – Credit to Cruz Pedregon’s Facebook Page
- John Force – (Finished sixth, tied with Pedregon in the points standings -101 back, fell to J.R. Todd in the quarterfinals) – “Not what we were looking for today. Bit of a rough go through the whole weekend. We’re still in the hunt though. Two races left, points and a half in Pomona. We’ll be good. Still have some fight in us.”
- Bob Tasca III – (Finished seventh, qualified 11th, fell to Robert Hight in the quarterfinal, sits sixth in the standings -147) He got the first round victory over Tim Wilkerson.
- Matt Hagan – (Entered the race as the points leader, fell in the first round to J.R. Todd and now trails teammate Capps by one point) – “It’s a tough one but J.R. Todd and that team, they did their homework and outran us and he left on us. That’s drag racing. I hate to lose and I’m trying to put a smile on right now, but it burns you up inside. We’ve got to go to these last two races and really make them count. That’s why we race them on Sunday because you never know what’s going to happen. I’ve got all of the confidence in (crew chief) Dickie Venables, and we’ll regroup and give it all we’ve got in Vegas.”
- Dave Richards (Finished ninth after qualifying ninth and fell to Cruz Pedregon in the first round) Richard’s ET was 4.023 seconds and 311.63 mph to Pedregon’s 3.964 seconds and 294.11 mph. Pedregon is now 3-0 against Richards.
- Tim Wilkerson – (Provisionally held the No. 1 qualifier after Friday night’s qualifying run and ended up fourth after Q3 to face Bob Tasca in the first round. Sits ninth in the standings, -241 back) Lost to Tasca in a losing effort with a 6.522 seconds and 103.46 mph.) – “We made some adjustments based on what happened yesterday and they didn’t work at all,” said Wilkerson, in his crew chief lounge in the pits. “We made some changes on Saturday and didn’t get the results we wanted so I tried something else and that didn’t work either which is very frustrating. I am going through the run now and hopefully we can figure it out. I have some time before Las Vegas, but we just missed it today.”
- Cory Lee – (Finished 11th after a first round loss to Robert Hight by going up in smoke in the left lane allowing Hight to power to victory).
- Blake Alexander – (Qualified 13th and faced Ron Capps in the first round. Also fell to Capps in the first round in a losing effort by smoking the tires)
- Paul Lee – (Lee faced eventual winner DeJoria in the first round after qualifying 14th with a time of 6.006 seconds and 112.69 mph. Lee had a slight advantage over DeJoria by having one victory heading into their Round 1 match up. He was also off the starting line first, but eventually had holes coming out of his Funny Car which cost him the race.)
14. Jim Campbell – (Was ninth after qualifying and fell to John Force in the first round. He now trails Force 6-0 in first-round matchups).