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March 5, 2014

Alexis DeJoria

THE MODERATOR:  We'll get started here with our teleconference today.  Thank you for joining us for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the third teleconference of the season.  The 2014 race season is two events in, and we've had some great story lines thus far.  The series has its east coast opener in Gainesville, March 13 through 16th with the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at the historic Auto‑Plus Raceway at Gainesville. 
Joining us today on the call will be three racers who started the season on a hot streak and are looking for continued success in Florida.  John Force in Funny Car, Antron Brown in Top Fuel and Alexis DeJoria in Funny Car have been ones to watch this season and will join us today during the course of this call.  We'll start today's call with Alexis. 
Alexis, are you there? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Yep, I'm here. 
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you for taking time out of your day today.  Alexis is having a breakthrough start of the year.  In Pomona she became the first female to power a Funny Car below 4 seconds with her 3.997 second pass in qualifying.  In Phoenix, she continued that hot streak by winning her first career Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event win.  She became only the 14th woman to win a Mello Yello Series event and the fourth in Funny Car. 
Alexis, the Victory Lane celebration was a joyous one with you and your team there after the race.  How was that celebration, and what was the best memory that came out of that win? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Well, it turned out to be pretty tame, actually.  I thought it would get a bit more rowdy.  But we had a great time.  We were in the winner's circle for quite a long time.  I think we were the last car to leave.  But it was so exciting.  I mean, the guys have been working so hard to get to this point.  We were hoping to get a win last year, but it's better now than never, of course.  And to do it in the beginning of the season like this in the first two races is unreal, so we're really excited and charged.

Q.  When, during eliminations did it hit you that, hey, I've got a shot at winning this? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Gosh, probably after I beat my teammate and I was going up against John Force in the semis.  I just felt really confident.  Our car was getting down the track almost every time, and that consistency is something that we've been striving towards.  It seemed like we had it.  Of course, John Force is a tough guy to beat, but I just felt really good and calm and collected.  It was my first semifinal in a while and I felt like we had a car to win the whole thing.

Q.  Did you have any inclination to run up the track and jump in the mosh pit? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  No, you'll never see me running back up that racetrack.  But, no, it was pretty awesome.  I got to see it on tape.  I record every race, so of course I come home and I basically kind of like I'm doing my homework when I watch the races.  But I got to see the mosh pit, and it was pretty amazing that my husband and my crew chiefs both kind of did a back shimmy and got themselves out of the mosh pit and unscathed.  So it was pretty fun. 
THE MODERATOR:  For those who may not have seen after a Kalitta Racing win, the crew members, Alexis, for lack of a better word, pretty much attack each other and kind of do a big mosh pit right there on the starting line.  It's definitely, if you haven't seen it, it's definitely something to see once one of those cars wins an event.

Q.  Perhaps quite a while ago in NHRA a lot of us learned that cars don't know gender, obviously.  But take a little step beyond that, with this win, with your fan base which has to include obviously males and females, but you also have young girls that look up to you.  You've become a role model too when you get that win.  Could you talk a little bit about that? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Yeah, I mean, it's hard to go out there and say I consider myself to be a role model.  Nobody's perfect.  But I think if I can go out there and show girls that they have other options, you know, that anything is possible and if they have determination and perseverance, they can accomplish anything.

Q.  Do you know where you got your work ethic from?  Obviously, drivers have to have a good one. 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Definitely my father.  He worked really hard to get to where he is today.  He's a very successful businessman and philanthropist and a wonderful father.  He taught us from the very beginning to fight for what you believe in stay focused and try to find something that you're passionate about.  If you're passionate about something and you can make it work and make it your profession, you'll be very successful.

Q.  When did racing become a passion for you?  When did you realize that was something you wanted to do? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Oh, gosh, when I was five.  When I was five and I saw that movie Cannonball Run.  And I wanted a Lamborghini Countach so bad.  I made a bet with my dad‑‑ I don't know.  I just gravitated towards it.  As soon as I got in high school, I got myself a '67 Chevelle SS with a 454 big block in it and raced that around.  I don't know.  I was kind of like the wild child of the family.  Everyone kind of went towards the family business, and I did at first, but I still had that drive in me.  I wanted to go out and race.

Q.  What did your dad think when you started gravitating towards what you do now?  What were his thoughts on that? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  He wasn't very surprised at all.  No one from my family comes from racing professionally.  I guess I could say he's done Cannonball style races all over the world, and done really well and had amazing stories when he would come home from them.  But I've always kind of been the sports enthusiast.  I played all sports in school and snowboard, riding dirt bikes and whatever. 
But, yeah, I mean, he was pretty proud though when he saw just how determined I was and when he saw, hey, you know what, she can do this.  And she's going to be good at it. 

Q.  Beating a legend like John Force in your first race, how does that validate what you want to accomplish in drag racing? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Well, obviously, I have so much respect for him and his entire team.  They're very tough to beat.  Like I said before, you have to beat the best to be the best.  Any day that you get to go up against these guys is pretty awesome.  After we beat John in the semis, we're going to our first final after a year, so it felt just amazing.  Whatever the outcome was, I would have been just as excited to make it to a final. 
But the fact that we got the win, it was huge.  It was really huge.  It was almost surreal that I couldn't actually enjoy the win until a few minutes after it had sunk in that we had done it.  I was just so focused all day long, and we really felt confident in our race car that day.

Q.  Now that you've done that, do you start thinking maybe season championship now?  Is that a possibility or a reality? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  We have a long way to go.  We've just won one race.  But obviously our short term goal right now is to stay in the Top 10.  And hopefully stay in the Top 10, and whatever happens after that happens.  But keep the consistency getting the car down the racetrack and hopefully win more rounds and win more races before the season is over.

Q.  Our next stop on the tour is in Gainesville with an historic racetrack that's seen so many milestones and incredible performances.  What is your mindset going into that event knowing the history and what all that event entails? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Gainesville is one of my favorite tracks on the entire circuit.  I lived out there for a few years when I raced with Bob Newbury in Alcohol Funny Car.  I ran record numbers in my Alcohol Funny Car there.  I won my first Nitro Funny Car round against John Force, so that was pretty exciting. 
But on a personal note, my daughter learned how to ride her bicycle in the pit without training wheels, so it's got a lot of firsts for me, and just the fact that the fans are amazing, it's beautiful, and we can run fast down there.  So I'm really excited to run Gainesville coming up here in a couple of weeks.

Q.  You and Jesse are probably like a rock star couple as far as NHRA is concerned.  Does that kind of spotlight and your wild child image, does that kind of make it even more important for you to win a race and show that you can do that? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  No, it has nothing to do with my career and what me wanting to win a race is all about.  It is nice though to have my mate finally be able to find someone like him who finally appreciates and respects what I do and can hang with me, basically, in the pits.  And he's got a common respect for the guys and they like having him there, because he's also an extra set of hands on the car when we need it and he knows what he's doing. 
So it's really nice to have that support from my husband.  But the whole rock star thing, I don't know.  I guess I'm so focused in my little world that I don't really see any of that.  But the fans are really supportive.  When he's done working on the car, he'll go up to the ropes and sign some autographs and stuff.  But he doesn't want to steal my thunder.  He's like I'm not here for me.  It's all about you.  So he's been really cute about it.  But it's nice to have that.  Of course, my father comes out to the race track and the fans love having him out there as well. 

Q.  He does work on the car then, right? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Yes, he does.

Q.  Anything in particular that he likes to do or is assigned to do? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Whatever he's told to do basically.  Whatever the guys need him to do.  Whether it's welding on the steering wheel or draining the oil from the chassis, refuelling the tanks, cleaning parts, whatever.  He was helping out our car chief this last race in Phoenix because he had hurt his ankle from the race prior, so anything and everything.

Q.  Tommy DeLago, how key was that to your team to getting him to be your crew chief? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Oh, man.  Well, there was still a lot to get figured out on that race car.  I think if Del had another year, he would have gotten it figured out as well.  But it's nice to have some other super brains on the team like Tommy DeLago and Glen.  They bring a different approach to tuning the car.  Their setup is completely different from what Del did.  It's not any better or any less, it's just different.  But, again, it was like we kind of had to start all over again. 
So last year was kind of like a learning experience for the whole team in just getting it all right.  They're amazing.  It's been so great to work with Tommy and Glen.  They're hard‑core.  They know how to win races and championships.

Q.  Your goals seem kind of modest there just staying in the Top 10.  Am I reading that right or will you maybe reassess that as the season goes on?  Just seems like with the first two races and the strong start here that that may be very modest. 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Well, I don't want to get ahead of myself.  We won one race.  This is our first race.  We have a ways to go.  I think there have been drivers in the past that have never won a race and they qualified really well and went rounds and consistently won championships. 
I know as far as myself is concerned and Tommy and Glen are pretty modest as well, even though they have won championships, they know how these things can go.  You can go really strong in the beginning of the season and fizzle out toward the end.  So you never know how it's going to be.  You just have to take it race by race.

Q.  Is it safe to say team‑wise, confidence‑wise it's at an all time high after that win? 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Oh, definitely.  I think we were riding pretty high after that three‑second run in Pomona as well.

Q.  I noticed what appears to be an F‑15 tattoo on your forearm.  What does that represent?  Most people don't go out and get fighter planes on their forearms. 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  It was a dream of mine to hopefully one day be able to fly in one.  And through the lovely world of NHRA Drag Racing and me, you know, out at the racetrack in Vegas, the guys from the Dallas Air Force Base came over, the F‑15 pilots that were training over there came over to watch the races.  And we brought them into our pit and we were talking back and forth, and they really admired what I did, and I admired what they did, and they said, hey, if you ever want to take a ride in one, we'd love to put it together for you. 
They were there training basically to go overseas, and they were active.  They said when we get back, we're going to work really hard on this, and it happened.  I got to go out to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, and I flew for about an hour in an active F‑15 Strike Eagle, and it was absolutely amazing.  I even got to fly it for a good half an hour.  I did absolutely everything. 
They did everything to try to make me sick and pass out.  They're like, oh, big, tough race car driver, let's see what she can do.  So that was just a dream come true.  I actually got the tattoo before I got to go up, but I knew.  It was already set in stone.  I got the government clearance and everything, so I was already ready to do it.  Yeah, that was kind of like a commemorative thing.

Q.  That is really cool. 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Thank you.

Q.  The reason that caught my eye is that my brother is a retired F‑15 pilot. 
ALEXIS DeJORIA:  Wow.  That's awesome. 

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