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Akouris: DeJoria more than just a pretty face

Alexis DeJori| Supplied photo

Alexis DeJoria | Supplied photo

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Updated: August 2, 2013 7:27AM



Alexis DeJoria emerges from her trailer at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet shaking her hands in the air. She’s just painted her nails a deep, dark red and is trying to get them to dry a few hours before stepping into her Funny Car for a qualifying round Saturday night in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.

But DeJoria isn’t a girly girl. She isn’t afraid to get her hands — or fingernails — dirty in the NHRA’s Mello Yellow drag racing series, driving one of the fastest, loudest and most obnoxious cars in the series.

“From the start I wanted to drive a nitro funny car because they are the fastest and the most rowdiest,” DeJoria said. “I worked my way up from slower to faster cars, trying to learn the ropes. Not having any background in racing, I wanted to be ready for this.”

DeJoria made it out of three rounds of qualifying and drove her Patron Tequilla Toyota Camry into Sunday’s finals. But her weekend ended in the first round of final eliminations when Jack Beckman outran DeJoria 4.074 seconds to 4.599.

Drag racing is one of those auto sports with a cult-like following. It’s not like NASCAR where most of the country — sports fans and non-sports fans alike — know drivers Danica Patrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Their names and images are ubiquitous on print and television ads.

The biggest name in the NHRA is probably Funny Car driver John Force, who had a reality show with daughters Courtney, Brittany and Ashley. The three Force girls and daddy John all ran at Route 66 over the weekend.

Then there’s local boy Tony Schumacher, known as “The Sarge,” who has won seven NHRA world championships.

Now there’s DeJoria, who has the opportunity to get more fans interested in drag racing and her celebrity may help.

DeJoria’s family is worth billions. Her father, John Paul DeJoria, is the founder of Paul Mitchell hair care products and Patron Tequilla. Alexis DeJoria doesn’t have to race — or even work — for a living but she does it because she said she’s always had that daredevil streak in her.

“I was always into fast cars and was a thrill seeker, everything that goes along with that lifestyle of living on the edge,” DeJoria said. “My family wasn’t too surprised when I decided to drive in NHRA.”

DeJoria started driving in the NHRA 10 years ago and has been full-time in the Mello Yellow series — the sport’s top tier of racing — for two years.

And DeJoria, 35, has found some more notoriety with her recent marriage to Jesse James, another former reality television star who previously was married to Academy Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock. DeJoria and James married in March.

DeJoria easily could parlay some of that celebrity into being another Danica Patrick-type, marketing herself as the Next Big Female Driver. It could even lead to a stint in NASCAR, but DeJoria won’t do it — at least not yet.

“I’ve never tried NASCAR, but I would love to try it out and I think Richard Petty has a (driving) school,” DeJoria said. “But right now it’s just my second year (in the Mello Yellow series) and I’ve worked so hard to get to this point. I’m 100 percent dedicated to this and we’re trying to win our first race.”



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