One of the newly formed teams that has generated a buzz in the offseason took its place on the track among its peers, but the Alexis De Joria – Del Worsham team was not making its first passes of the offseason.
They had tested initially at Bakersfield, Calif., then in Arizona at Tucson.
“The first one was for her. The second one was for us,” Worsham said. “This one’s for the whole team.”
The ROKiT / ABK Beer Toyota Camry – which clocked a 4.18-second elapsed time as the best of three passes Thursday – got a thumbs-up from De Joria before she ever went down the racetrack this week.
“I love the color combo,” she said of the red, black, and white paint scheme. “I think it’s a really strong, fierce color. I’m excited – it already looks fast!” She characterized its look as “angry,” as in angry with passion, and said, “Very much like my soul.”
Her soul is at home, on the dragstrip and with co-team-owner Worsham and his co-crew-chief, Nicky Boninfante.
“I have so much respect for Del and Nicky. I have developed a very good rapport , a good relationship, with them. It feels like family,” she said.
The team officially is DC Racing, which borrows an initial from each partners: “D” for De Joria and “C” for Charles, which is Worsham’s middle name. Its primary home will be in a shop at Concord, N.C., just behind zMAX Dragway that’s home to two national events. They chose the location because Boninfante wanted to be close to his family. “The other half of the time,” De Joria said, the car will stay at the Worsham Family Racing shop at Orange, Calif., near Los Angeles.
Worsham said the first two (private) test sessions were not representative of anything: “You can’t really judge your performance on a track that’s not prepped – like NHRA-prepped – or when there are no other cars there to judge yourself against.” Then again, he said, “Neither is Phoenix” or any number of places racers test.
For example, he said, “You go to Phoenix right now. It’s not anything like the race. First off, there is no rubber on it [before the simultaneous PRO session started]. And then you get only [nitro] cars on it. So there’s only Goodyear rubber on it. It’s not being mixed up with Mickey Thompson and Hoosier and all the different stuff. And there’s hardly any cars on it. You don’t get the surface you race on, no matter what. It’s not really the same, anyway.
“Even at the Indy test session [in August, circa 2003] . . . I remember going to the Indy test session and making one run and running low E.T. of the whole test session, then coming back and qualifying 16th. So you really have to take those things for what they are,” Worsham said. “A lot of times, it’s just running though your parts and running through your drivers and making sure you’re prepared for the situations that are coming. Every day’s a new day. We know that. Track prep’s one thing. The amount of cars on the track is another thing. And then there’s the weather. You don’t know, really, what you’re going to get.
“That’s where your really great tuners seem to rise up – your Alan Johnsons and your Austin Coils – because they adapt to every situation they’re in, no matter what it is,” he said.
Worsham said, “We’re not [coming to Las Vegas] just to check parts. We’ve done that. We’re not coming just to make sure Alexis is up to speed. We’ve done that. Now we’re here mainly to see how fast it will go. If the track’s up to it, let’s just see if it can put up the numbers that we need to win and compare it to the other cars that are here. That’s the only way you really know.”
The Bakersfield test, Worsham said, was to observe De Joria’s driving and getting her comfortable after her two-year hiatus.
She said despite the layoff, “I feel pretty confident. It’s been two years. So that first test session that we did back in November, that was more shakedown runs, trying to see if there was any dust that had settled on me – which there really wasn’t, to my surprise. We just gelled, and it was fine. It happened to be good weather in November. We went there with a partial 2020 team. Del put it together and got us a crew. We just went out there and made a bunch of runs.
“This last test session in Tucson,” she said, “was with the actual team and the car and the truck together.”
All in all, Worsham said before the Las Vegas test session, “Really, we accomplished quite a bit. We accomplished enough without putting big numbers on the board right now. We had to run through new blowers and new heads and all the new stuff we bought. We ran into some problems, so I’m glad we were able to address them right away. We did what needed to be done where if we had to go to Pomona tomorrow because of weather or any other issue, I feel comfortable going to Pomona right now. It doesn’t really matter. We did the things we really had to accomplish.”
He did say that “as the season goes on, we’re going to build a couple more new cars.”