DEJORIA ADJUSTS TO LIFE WITHOUT NITRO
Alexis DeJoria knew from the day she announced her open-ended retirement she'd second guess her decision to retire from driving a fuel-burning Funny Car.
"[Coming back] It’s something I’ve thought about, and I’ll be honest, it’s something that I thought about from the day that I retired," DeJoria, a five-time winner in eight finals during her professional career. "Is it possible I ever come back out? I think about it every day. I miss it tremendously. I miss all my competitors, my family out there. I actually do miss all the people at the tracks and coming into a new track and just meeting all the fans and all that camaraderie. I don’t know. It’s possible. I wouldn’t rule it out."
DeJoria stepped away from drag racing at the conclusion of a physically and emotionally challenging 2017 season, proclaiming her retirement as one she wouldn't hesitate to reverse when the time is right.
This intent didn't mean DeJoria didn't struggle with her decision early on.
"I knew I was in for it," she said. "I had a bout of depression that I had to deal with because when you’re in such a fast-paced lifestyle where your job is everything to you, it’s not just a job, it is a lifestyle. It’s your profession; it’s how I perceive myself. I’m a racer. I’m a driver. That’s is me. To go from 300 miles an hour to standing still, it took a lot to get through that. I’ve had a lot of support from my family. I have a great family that loves me very much. They loved me when I was racing, and they still love me when I’m not racing.
"I went through a whole thing of like, ‘Will my kids still be proud of me? Will my husband still think I’m a badass?"
"You know, all those things that go through your mind being human. We’re human, and we have fears and insecurities and all that that goes along with it. Yeah, it was really tough, but I don’t think I realized prior how hard of a road that was going to be for me."
DeJoria admits she's been approached with offers to come out of retirement, primarily members of her former team at Kalitta Motorsports.
"They’re like, you’re not even one year out of the car, and they’re like, ‘Alright, are you done now? Can you come back? Have you had enough time?"
DeJoria laughs in admiration of her racing family. She listed as her primary reason for leaving, as returning to the "normal" life to be a Mom to her daughters and wife.
"We joke about it like, man it hasn’t even been a year yet," DeJoria said. "Give me some time. But my kids, they won’t say it, but I can just tell they’re a lot happier having me home and being able to be present for all life’s issues that come up and school and all that. I was able to teach Isabella (her 16-year old daughter) how to drive, and she got her permit and then got her license, she’s been doing really good. Now my step-daughter Sunny, she just turned 15, so now we’re going to do the same thing with her. It’s just special things like that that I think it would break my heart if I missed that."
DeJoria, an admitted adrenaline-seeker, is quick to point out nothing can fill the void left by stepping away from Funny Car.
"Nothing will ever replace the feeling of going down the race track in under four seconds at over 300 miles an hour," DeJoria said. "There will be nothing to replace that ever. Unless maybe I was a fighter pilot on an aircraft carrier, but still, you don’t get the same g-forces taking off. It’s just not the same. One thing I have been doing to try and get my thrills I guess is riding my motorcycles more."
DeJoria was instrumental in spearheading a female motorcycle ride appropriately "Babes Ride Out." The journey consisted of female riders who made their way from all over North America to Joshua Tree, just outside of Palm Springs, Ca., where they camped out for three days.
"During the day we would ride all around and then at night we’d come back and eat and drink and listen to great music," DeJoria explained. "I’ve been just getting more miles on two wheels."
DeJoria said she plans to keep her competition license current, in the event the urge to race overwhelms her.
"I talked about it with Del prior to all this. I said, ‘Del, you know if I want to keep my license current, would it be alright if I made a couple passes in your car when you guys are testing or something like that?" DeJoria explained. "He said, ‘No problem."
"That was kind of the end of the conversation. We haven’t really talked about it much after that. One thing I don’t want to lose is my number - 771. So I don’t know how I’m going to procure that, but I don’t want them giving it away to anybody else."
DeJoria says she's pretty confident a run here or there won't easily change her mind to return.
"I went out to the Dallas race in Ennis, and I came out to visit and see everybody since it was the closest race to where I live," DeJoria revealed. "That alone was just enough to be like, ‘You know, I just really miss it. I miss everybody."
"I went up in the stands with my kids, I brought my girls with me, and just watching the races, and I was like, it just kind of puts me back to where I was in that car. That was me. I did that. So it was something really to be proud of, and just I think kind of give me like a sense of accomplishment and pride."
DeJoria said her most significant observation of drag racing from the sidelines, is the extreme demands the sport puts on those part of the weekly grind.
"The huge void of not constantly thinking about the next race or what I’m going to do differently or where we’re at in the points," DeJoria admitted. "I would come back from a race and instantly planning the next race in my head, meanwhile trying to make up for lost time with my kids and my husband and be present, but my mind was always on the next race. So that’s a big difference.
"That’s not in my thought process anymore. So I just have a lot of free time on my hands. It’s a little bit harder when the girls are in school, but I have a few other businesses that I’ve invested in over the years that need my attention now to kind of get to the next level. So that’s been good. I’ve been working with my father on a few things. I’m on the board of our charity called Peace, Love, and Happiness. It’s a non-profit charity, and we donate money to all different kinds of things from environmental, to medical, to animal conservation."
Just because DeJoria's not in the daily grind of the sport, doesn't mean she doesn't keep tabs on what's going on. She's all about keeping up with the sport via her favorite media outlets.
"Anytime there's a breaking news story out there, I’m on it," DeJoria said. "My husband and I still follow all drag racing, and when it’s on television, you bet I’m watching it."
DeJoria knows there are fans out there clamoring for one of those breaking news stories announcing her return. She's all too willing to reach out to them.
"Thank you," DeJoria said. "I appreciate your long support and what can I say? It’s been a wonderful ride and thank you all for supporting me along the way. It’s not over yet. I think there’s still a future in drag racing possibly for me. I don’t know on what level, but again, if I do come back it will definitely be driving a Nitro Funny Car.
"I wouldn’t come back and drive a dragster. Not because I don’t like them, but just because I am a Funny Car driver through and through and that’s where my heart is. But who knows? Maybe my daughter might have an interest in it, and we’ll go down that road with her. I don’t know; we’ll just have to wait and see."