Alexis DeJoria Overcomes Dry Spell at NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals

Photos Courtesy of NHRA Media

After a thrilling weekend in the Thunder Valley of Bristol Dragway one driver who has been on a serious dry spell over the last few years, finally found her way back to the top of the podium. After taking a hiatus from drag racing for a little while, Alexis DeJoria would return to her first love. Although this return would lead to a serious challenge, the queen of “never say never” would overcome to earn her first win since 2017 after taking down former world champion J.R. Todd in Sunday’s final elimination round. Although DeJoria would be the most talked about driver of the weekend, the latest Top Fuel victor would definitely leave fans jaws dropping following Sunday’s final round. While most fans betting on Steve Torrence to race his way to yet another Wally, after Toyota confirmed its addition of Torrence Racing to its stable of over-achievers in NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series drag racing last week, the king of Top Fuel would fall short on Sunday. Thanks to a final pass of 3.854-seconds at 245.05 MPH in his 11,000-horsepower Scrappers Racing dragster Mike Salinas would take down Steve Torrence in the final round of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. While racing in Bristol would end a dry spell for two NHRA legends, one driver would also clinch his first Pro Mod Drag Racing Series world championship after ending his 2021 season in dominating fashion at Bristol after advancing to Sunday’s final round.

Funny Car

Kicking off her magical weekend at one of her favorite places to race – Bristol Dragway – Alexis DeJoria earned her first No. 1 qualifier since 2016 with the quickest run of the event in the class. Sunday’s final elimination rounds would give DeJoria the chance to knock off Paul Lee in the first round before earning a bye run in Sunday’s second round. Her next big challenge would come in Sunday’s semi-final round, where DeJoria lined up alongside three-time Funny Car world champion, Robert Hight. Although the John Force Racing superstar put up one heck of a fight, DeJoria would once again come out on top with a 3.904-second pass at 327.74 MPH to give her a chance to take on yet another former Funny Car champion in Sunday’s final round. Despite taking down last week’s Funny Car winner Ron Capps in Sunday’s semi-finals, J.R. Todd would not have what it took to stop the newest queen of speed in the final thanks to DeJoria’s final 3.921-second run at 327.66 MPH. After breaking a four-year dry spell with “one of the biggest wins of her career,” DeJoria said that “coming back after two years off and working with her mentor and friend Del Worsham is huge.

“This is huge because returning to racing has definitely been a roller-coaster and it takes a toll on you. It is very humbling, but I was just ready to win,” said DeJoria. “I was calm and just excited, and when I am in that headspace I do my best. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks and it is just beautiful here. I just love it.”

Top Fuel

DeJoria’s breakthrough back to the top, would not be the only shocking victory at Bristol Dragway. Even after a year away, Bristol Dragway continues to treat Mike Salinas very well. Salinas was impressive in reaching the final round for the third straight time at Bristol, knocking off Antron Brown, Clay Millican, and Brittany Force. After a 3.672-second pass to easily dispatch Brown, Salinas then turned in a 3.698-second pass to get past Force in the semifinals. This would line the Top Fuel veteran alongside one of the most powerful Top Fuel drivers available. Despite a mountain, named Steve Torrence, he would have to climb Salinas made this effort look easy with his final 3.854-seconds at 245.05 MPH in his 11,000-horsepower Scrappers Racing dragster.

“This win is difficult, especially when you are running against these guys, but I got a lot of help and I have made some big improvements,” said Salinas. “I think I threw away 3-4 races at the beginning of the year trying to get my routine down, but we have got a great team and all the parts and pieces to make a win happen at a track that obviously loves me.”

Pro Mod

Although DeJoria and Salinas would both earn long-awaited victories at this weekend’s Thunder Valley Nationals, one Pro Mod driver would complete a dominant season to earn his first E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service world championship on Sunday at Bristol Dragway. Jose Gonzalez suffered an early season crash at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, but rebounded in dominant fashion, winning three straight races at one point, and clinching the world championship a race before the final event of the season.

Gonzalez reached the final round with round wins against Lyle Barnett, Khalid AlBalooshi, and Stevie “Fast” Jackson, who had won the two previous world championships in the class before Gonzalez took control in 2021. Thanks to advancing to the final round in Bristol, Gonzalez clinched his first world title.

“We went through a lot this year,” said Gonzalez. “Since our mishap in Charlotte, we started running really good. The effort of this whole team, they deserve it all. They have done a tremendous job and they are the ones who deserve all the credit. I am just grateful that we could win a couple of races. A championship is way over what I would have wanted.”

Congrats go out to these talented drivers! Stay tuned to for the latest news from the final two races of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series as the 2021 Countdown to the Championship continues.

About Ellen Richardson 491 Articles
Ellen Richardson is the author of Behind The Wheel for This automotive sports junkie has a passion for telling an athlete's story while also covering various racing activities. Find out more about her at or follow Ellen on Twitter at @ellennrich or Instagram at elnrich33.

1 Comment on Alexis DeJoria Overcomes Dry Spell at NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals

  1. Nice article Ellen, but you left out another Pro Winner, that being Angelle Sampey in Pro Stock Motorcycle. She has been riding these bikes for many years. Angelle is a hard worker in this sport and deserves to be recognized.

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