Going into the 24th Annual Dollar General NHRA Summernationals in Topeka, KS, the Kalitta Motorsports Tequila Patrόn Toyota Camry Funny Car team looked to get two solid qualifying runs under their belt on Friday evening, when track conditions would likely be at their best. At around 5:30PM, the air temperatures were still pushing ninety degrees, but Team Patrόn was able to accomplish a nice, clean 4.206-second at 296.76-mph pass in round one, and an impressive 4.135-sec at 303.91-mph, edging out lane partner John Force’s 4.136-sec pass in round two, finishing out the day in the tenth spot.
Sitting in eleventh by the time she went up to the line in round three, it was driver Alexis DeJoria versus Force again, this time against daughter and fellow Rookie of the Year candidate, Courtney. Unfortunately, the Patrόn car struggled and lost traction at the 330-foot mark, resulting in a 4.78-sec pass.
In what was a seemingly never-ending matchup of Force family members for DeJoria this weekend, she was up against veteran John Force yet again in her last attempt to improve her standings before going into Sunday’s elimination rounds. The two drivers put on an exciting side-by-side show, with Team DeJoria running a 4.169-sec to Team Force’s 4.19-sec run. Although the run was solid, the Patrόn team remained in the eleventh spot.
“We stayed middle-of-the pack all weekend,” said Jim Oberhofer, VP of Kalitta Motorsports. “That’s both good and bad. The good news is, we continue to see consistency, and the car is getting down the track without any major issues, but we were hoping to see some numbers in the 4.0’s [secs] and really break away into the top of the pack. Our sixty foot times improved slightly, but it wasn’t completely what we wanted, so it’s been quite frustrating for Del [Worsham, Crew Chief] and the team.”
Come Sunday, DeJoria faced ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman in round one of eliminations. The Patrόn Toyota Camry was ahead initially, but started to fall behind fairly quickly. The car then smoked the tires at around the 330-ft mark, forcing DeJoria to back off the throttle and give up the run.
“The Top Fuel cars were running really good in the first round on Sunday, so everyone in Funny Car thought they’d be able to duplicate the performance of the Top Fuel guys. Unfortunately, it ended up being a little trickier for both of our [Kalitta Motorsports] Funny Cars. Both cars ran smoothly to the 330-ft mark, but then both pulled the tires up in the same spot,” said Oberhofer. “Jeff [Arend] was up before Alexis, and his car made a nice improvement to the 330-ft mark. We adjusted the Patrόn car based on his run, but didn’t have quite the same results. Right now we have three challenges- we’re trying to figure out why the two Funny Cars are running differently, whether or not the changes we made helped out at the 330 mark, and if they did, then why did we spin the tires at a track that’s as good as Topeka?”
While the crew has some work to do with the car on their end, DeJoria has continued to improve upon her reaction times. According to Oberhofer, “She’s doing an excellent job. If we can just give her a car that can run competitive numbers, this team will be right up there with the best of them, and we should be capable of going a couple of rounds on raceday.”
“Of course each Sunday, I’d like to advance a little farther than the previous elimination day, but I’m happy with the fact that we’re getting down the racetrack and we seem to be headed in the right direction. I had some good, consistent reaction times this weekend, and I’m very proud of the 4.13 we ran on Friday night,” said DeJoria. “We definitely need to get some round wins in Englishtown, but overall I’m happy with the progression of the team.”
Alexis DeJoria and the Kalitta Motorsports Tequila Patrόn Toyota Camry Funny Car team will compete next at the NHRA Supernationals in Englishtown, NJ, June 1st-3rd.