DEJORIA SAYS BYE IN HER OWN WAY
Now before drawing any conclusions, DeJoria loves her fans. They are, as she describes them, her driving force on her road to Funny car stardom. Today they were a reminder, her days as a nitro superstar were done, at least for now.
Facing them was a tough reminder.
But, she can always use race day as an excuse for her evasiveness. To be honest, she's always been kind of focused on a race day with little interaction.
"Sundays are different. Head down, focus, blinders up. It’s like, you want to win," DeJoria explained. "That’s what all of this preparation and perfection is all about. It’s about that win, you know. You just can’t falter. But if there’s extra time in between, I’ll go out and sign autographs on the ropes and say hi to everybody."
This day, she admits, was a different scenario.
"Today I was trying to kind of keep things quiet because I know a lot of people have a lot of sadness, and they want to see me have emotions, and 'Ah, how are you?'
"You know all that and want to shake my hand, ‘Oh, we’re going to miss you’. I just wasn’t hearing any of that. I was just nope, nope, thank you but I got a job to do right now, and I’ll cry later."
Surely a tough as nails fighter such as DeJoria would never do a girly thing, like cry in emotion.
"Bulls***," DeJoria corrected. "I was up there looking at Courtney and Brittany on the screen while I’m sitting there to go turn around into the water box, and I’m about to bawl just looking at them hugging each other and her congratulating her sister on winning the championship, which is so incredible.
"I’m so happy for her. It’s just amazing. They’re my friends, so at that moment I was like awwwww. I’m like okay, I have all these emotions for that, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m like a machine today. I’m just like out there, one by one getting everything done, doing my best. I’m like, you know what, I can cry later. When this is all done, then I can have feelings. But for right now, I got a job to do, and I want to do it right, do it well."
DeJoria wasn't going to go out without a fight on Sunday in Pomona, and she made a battle out of it for the whole 1,000 feet in a second-round loss to eventual winner Tommy Johnson Jr.
Once the anger of losing subsided, the joy of Monday morning began to slowly permeate her mindset. Monday was the new chapter of her life, one which prepares for future events and instead jumps feet first into her strongest passion, her family, and daughter Isabella in particular.
"I’ve got a little bit of nervousness about it because I’m a hard worker, and I wanted to make sure that I had something else to transition into," DeJoria admitted. "I’m not going to just stop working, not stop my job and just sit on a couch, not doing anything. That’s not the way I was raised, and that’s just how my whole family works. My Dad still works, and he really doesn’t have to. But I don’t think he would be as strong and healthy as he is today if he didn’t keep having that drive every morning he gets up. I believe in that.
"There’s still so much left to do. I’m 40, but again I’m only 40. So, in today’s day and age, our longevity is pretty good. So yeah there are some great projects in the works, I’m really excited about it. And you know I told, Jim O and I were talking about it, and he said that you know if you want to come out and you know run some races or something, the door’s always open."
Leaving the doors open is important for DeJoria who admits on Sunday there were constant reminders of the journey which culminated in the "walking away" day.
"From Super Gas to Super Comp, I went to two finals and won a Sportsman National in the first eight months of racing ever, and I really have to thank the Super Comp racers so much because they took me under their wing," DeJoria recalled. "I came out there with my buddy Big Bruce, and I got the truck and the trailer and the car, and we just were like, ‘I just want to race. I don’t know anything about this sport, but just get me out there, and I’ll handle it’."
"So luckily we pitted next to [Robbins Family] out in Arizona, and they helped us out, and it was really cool, and we kind of stuck together throughout it. And they tuned that thing and got it all good and ran some good numbers in that car and won a lot of rounds. That was the first part of my career in NHRA, and it helped me make that next step to Top Alcohol Funny Car."
Make no mistake about it, DeJoria has the resources to go right to the top of the food chain right out of the box but was steadfastly opposed to this fast track. She wanted to earn her way up the ladder.
"I did my homework. I’m more of a listener than a talker because I like to soak up as much information as I can," DeJoria said. "I think usually the smartest, strongest person in the room is usually the quietest person. I talked to a lot of really good drivers, people that I watched and you know admired and respected in this sport. A lot of Alcohol Funny Car guys, and talking with them and kind of knowing that Nitro Funny Car was my ultimate goal, and I was going to get there, and they were like, ‘Yeah, Alcohol Funny Car is the way to go. You get good at this, and it’s going to make the transition so much easier to Nitro."
"Plus, I don’t have any history in racing, so I was just kind of out of left field from my family coming into this sport, no history, nobody knew who I was. I tried to let my actions speak louder than my last name. Did my very best. Yeah, I guess, you know, technically speaking I could have jumped into a Nitro Funny Car, but again that’s not how I was raised. My Dad would never let me do something like that anyway, even if I wanted to. I wanted to work my way up. I really wanted to earn that seat, you know. I wanted to earn it."
And while John Paul DeJoria is her Mr. Positive, Glass is Half-Full voice of reason; it was his words which resonated with her as she made her way out to the ropes for fan interaction. She found herself talking a lot like him.
"You know what, life happens," DeJoria explained. "Things change, but it’s not over ’til it’s over. There’s so much more left on the table, but we’ve had a great run, my guys and I. Won the U.S. Nationals, won four other races, record numbers, we kicked ass. I’m proud, I’m proud. I’m going to leave here with my head held high."