With a successful first heat under her belt, Alexis DeJoria returned back to the Patrón XO Café trailer in order to make the necessary adjustments to her NHRA Nitro Funny Car. As her team got the vehicle back into position for repairs, a crowd slowly began to form, in the hopes of catching a glimpse.
DeJoria, 37, has ascended the drag racing ranks since she began in the Super Gas category back in 2005, before quickly becoming a crowd favorite at events like today’s – the Toyota Summernationals. But it’s not just the fastest woman in the sport – the first with a sub-four second run – onlookers are hoping to see, it’s also her husband. And at this moment in time, he’s got his head buried in the engine.
Her husband, gearhead-turned-reality TV star Jesse James, plays an intricate role in the success of DeJoria and her Patrón XO Café Incendio sponsored Toyota. Married in 2013, the two met at the track while James was taking in some NHRA action and discussing his trophy truck with DeJoria.
“He’s come to every single race ever since we’ve met,” DeJoria admitted after the event. “[Jesse] knows everything about a motor, he gets along with the guys and now he’s like a full-on part of the team.”
8,000 Horses, 300 MPH
Time and performance are the two main factors in getting the Nitro Funny Car ready for the next heat, so DeJoria’s crew proceeds quickly and carefully, moving like a well-oiled machine. There’s a lot involved with ensuring the vehicle spews out almost 8,000-horsepower to make it move almost 300 mph, so who better to have at the helm than one of the biggest names in automotive customization. And while she embraces the speed, Dejoria knows the risks involved but trusts James and the crew.
“I trust him with everything – I trust him with my life,” she added. “I mean, things happen and even a two dollar part can ruin an event. These guys double and triple-check everything and they do their part, so I know when I roll up to the starting line, I don’t have to worry about any of that and I can just focus on the task at hand.”
Covered in oil, grease and sweat, James doesn’t just sit back and watch Dejoria’s crew, instead he dives right in – offering the occasional brief public display of affection in between all the work, while DeJoria prepares and attends to some of the vehicle’s needs, such as the parachute. Once her vehicle appears ready, the adrenaline junkie hops into the seat and tests her ride. It’s piercingly loud and produces bursts of exhaust that send some running, while James watches, inspecting his work.
But it wasn’t always that way, as DeJoria recalled.
“In the beginning, he was kind of like obviously respectful but he’s not the type of person that would stand on the sidelines and not run and help out in some way. The guys got him involved really quickly. I think the second race in, after we met, [the crew] was like, ‘Hey, do you think you could ask him if he wouldn’t mind helping?’”
Once the car is deemed ready for the next heat by DeJoria and the crew chief, James and the team place the fiberglass automotive cover back on top of the chassis and prepare for Round 2. And as the crew wheels the car off and the fans cheer for what lies ahead, the racing star clearly appreciates the support – from her fans, from her crew, from her family and most importantly, from James.
“Jesse is part of the crew and he’s a great, supportive person out there at the track and at home,” DeJoria said. “It’s nice – I’ve never had that kind of support before.”