SAN RAFAEL -- It became apparent early in Alexis DeJoria's life that she was fascinated with cars and racing.
"I always played with Matchbox cars as a little girl," the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car driver said recently. "I guess I was just born with that attraction to race cars."
DeJoria, 36, turned her passion into a career, and she has become darn good at it. She won the first two events of her Funny Car career this year and is sixth in the point standings entering the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway. Qualifying takes place Friday and Saturday, with final eliminations Sunday.
"I'm not about the image and what kind of name I could make for myself," said DeJoria, who has competed in Nitro Funny Car for three seasons. "I really enjoy what I do. I love the sport."
DeJoria entered the NHRA nine years ago with a recognizable name. Her father is billionaire businessman John Paul DeJoria, the co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems and the Patron Spirits Company. She is married to television personality and West Coast Choppers founder Jesse James.
DeJoria, who attended her first race when she was 16, worked her way up through the ranks. She began driving in the Super Gas division in a 1963 Corvette Roadster. She then raced Super Comp and then moved up to Top Alcohol Funny Car before reaching the Nitro Funny Car division.
"I didn't have any background in it," DeJoria said. "I wanted to learn everything I could because I knew that the final step was going into one of the fastest cars in the world, Nitro Funny Car. You don't just step into those things."
DeJoria's 2014 season got off to a fast start. She became the first woman in NHRA history to make a pass under four seconds (3.997) during qualifying at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona. In the second event of the season, the Carquest Auto Parts Nationals in Chandler, Arizona, DeJoria produced her first NHRA Funny Car victory. She won again in Las Vegas at the end of March.
"Overall, she has really improved with keeping the car in the groove," said Tommy DeLago, DeJoria's crew chief. "Driving a Funny Car is like trying to ride a bull. She is doing a lot of work to make it run straight."
DeJoria, who was born and reared in Southern California but now lives in Austin, Texas, loves racing at Sonoma and the western states.
"Sonoma has been a good track for us," she said. "The last two years, we have been in the semifinals. We are hoping to get past that."
DeJoria has many hobbies, including snowboarding, riding dirt bikes and skydiving. Last week, her shooting prowess was on display during a media event at Bullseye Indoor Shooting Range in San Rafael. She also would like to do some off-road racing with James in the future.
But none of those activities rivals the competition and intensity of drag racing for DeJoria.
"The end result is just unbelievable," she said. "Not a lot of people will get the chance to do that in their lives. It's an amazing feeling."
Schedule: Friday-Sunday (gates open at 7 a.m.)