NHRA: Retired Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria recalls career, looks at future

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For fans of now-retired Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria, she’ll never say never about potentially returning behind the wheel one day.

But it may be a while — like five years from now or so.

DeJoria will appear on the syndicated “In Depth With Graham Bensinger” TV show this weekend, which will feature her famous father, John Paul DeJoria, who founded the Paul Mitchell Hair Salons and line of hair products, as well as The Patron Spirits Company, which features Patron Tequila.

But because Alexis is also famous in her own right, she played a big part in the show and offered some insight into possibly racing once again.

DeJoria said she’d consider a comeback once her daughter Isabella (15 years old) and step daughter Sunny (13) leave the nest with her and husband Jesse James.

“Maybe when the girls are out of the house, in college or something like that – I might,” DeJoria said of racing again to Bensinger. “Or I might just do some fun countdown races or maybe race Indy (the U.S. Nationals).

“(But) it’s hard to find a team that will come together for just a couple races. … It just all depends on what’s out there and really what I’m willing to sacrifice at home to do that again. But as far as a full-time schedule, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”

Alexis DeJoria began racing in NHRA in 2005, starting in Super Gas and advancing to Top Alcohol Funny Car in 2007. She co-owned and operated her own team from 2009 into 2011.

She then joined Kalitta Motorsports in the latter part of the 2011 season in a Nitro Funny Car and became the first female driver in that class to break the sub-four-second barrier. She remained with the team, sponsored by Patron Tequila, through last season.

She won several races in Funny Car, the most notable one being in the 2014 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

The interview with father and daughter DeJoria featured several good stories that the pair shared, including how John Paul turned over his super-fast Vector to Alexis to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas right after her 16th birthday.

“I said, ‘Lexi come with me,’” John Paul said. “The minute we cross the California/Nevada line, I let her jump in the seat and just drive this thing; very fast car. In those days it was the fastest road car ever made. 227 miles an hour top-end, 750 horsepower, twin-turbo.

“So she jumped in there. … And then she got on it and got on it and got on it. Pretty soon I realized we’re going about 200 miles an hour!”

Alexis interjected, reminding her father, “YOU told me to pass this person.”

To which John Paul responded, “I did… She passed them good. … And then I realized what 200 miles an hour was like. She was fine with it. I made her slow down because at that speed you have to see one mile ahead of you… Pretty gnarly, but she drove it great!”

Added Alexis, “I think that’s where I got my racing bug from – definitely my father and his enthusiasm for sports cars.”

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images

Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”