ENNIS, Texas (Dallas-Ft. Worth) – Alexis DeJoria emerged unscathed from an engine fire that burned her ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry to the ground Sunday at the Texas Motorplex during the 35th running of a AAA Texas Fall Nationals event in which she earlier made her quickest run of the new season.
After qualifying No. 5 at 3.895 seconds with a finish line speed of 325.85 miles per hour on Saturday, a not-so-funny thing happened to the former U.S. Nationals champion on her way to a first round win Sunday over veteran Gary Densham.
As her black-and-red Camry neared the finish line, crew chief Del Worsham was able to determine that two connecting rods failed in the 11,000 horsepower engine. That started a fire that spread to the carbon fiber body and eventually engulfed both DeJoria and the car in thick, black smoke that forced her to exit through the roof hatch for the second time in as many NHRA events.
“There was not much of a warning except (for) some sparks,” DeJoria said. “I couldn’t see anything (once the body caught fire). I popped my head up (through the roof hatch) and put my foot on the brake handle to try and get it stopped. Then I saw a Safety Safari guy (a member of the NHRA’s safety team) and I did a Dirty Dancing move and just threw my arms out and jumped.”
After being checked out by the medical staff and getting a little oxygen, DeJoria shook off the effects and climbed back into the cockpit of a backup car for a second round match with former world champion Ron Capps which, unfortunately, had a negative result with the ROKiT Camry losing traction almost as soon as she hit the throttle.
“Unfortunately, we ruined another car,” she said of the day “We’re just having some gremlins but we’ll work them out and no matter what happens, it’s always a better day when you’re at the drag races.”
Coming on the heels of a supercharger explosion that destroyed an identical carbon fiber Camry in the second round of the Midwest Nationals at St. Louis two weeks earlier, Sunday’s incident was particularly perplexing to Worsham, the two-time world champion who co-owns DC Motorsports with DeJoria, and to his cohort, veteran tuner Nicky Boninfante, who will spend the week trying to determine if there is a recurring internal problem or if the two were isolated incidents.