BAYTOWN, Texas --
DeJoria and her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry team have enjoyed round wins and solid qualifying efforts thus far in her second full-time season in the Funny Car ranks. She has also spent time in the top 10 in the series standings for the first time in her career. She enters her 33rd career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event looking for her first career victory.
"I'd say our chances are as good as any," DeJoria said. "We seem to have more consistency now than we've had before and that's always a confidence booster. You never know what can happen on Sundays, but I feel like our team is headed in the right direction. As long as you qualify, you have as good a shot as any as making it to the winner's circle."
Her success to date - including a quarterfinal finish at Gainesville and semifinal effort at Las Vegas - can be traced in large part to the addition of new crew chief Tommy DeLago who joined the team in the off-season. This is the veteran tuner's second stint with Kalitta Motorsports and he comes to the team after serving as crew chief for Matt Hagan during his 2011 championship season. DeJoria and DeLago have begun to jell and feel they have hit upon a setup that will prove dividends going into the later portion of the season.
"Based on our Vegas performance, it's clear that we're a little further ahead with our warmer weather setup than our other tune-ups, which is good for the string of summer races that are right around the corner," DeLego said. "We're still figuring out the proper setup to get those crazy fast E.T.s that are possible in cooler, damper weather, but obviously the more we get to run the car in those conditions, the more opportunity we'll have to improve in those types of conditions."
"I'd say things have been good up to this point this season," DeJoria said. "We've qualified at every race and have gone rounds. We've been steadily progressing with every race weekend. We have some good runs under our belt so far this season, and I'm confident that we'll have more success next weekend."
"Royal Purple Raceway is a great facility," she continued. "Houston is close to home which is always nice. I hope to do well there."
The O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals is the sixth of 24 events in 2013 and has produced record-setting performances at a track that is only 10 feet above sea level. Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the race that will be televised on ESPN2 HD, including live coverage of Saturday qualifying and Sunday's semifinals and final rounds.
Matt Hagan is leading the points standings in Funny Car for the first time since the end of the 2011 season on the strength of his recent win at the Dollar General Four-Wide NHRA Nationals. Courtney Force will be a tough competitor during the event on the strength of two final round appearances so far in the season, with one win in Pomona. Also splitting time atop the points standings have been Ron Capps and Johnny Gray, who will both be serious contenders when the series visits the Lone Star state. Others to watch in Funny Car include Las Vegas winner Cruz Pedregon, a two-time winner at RPR, seven-time event winner John Force and Del Worsham, who has earned both Top Fuel and Funny Car wins in Houston.
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher has added two more NHRA Wally trophies to his collection with wins in Phoenix and Las Vegas, and he has been atop of the points standings since early in the season. His Don Schumacher Racing teammates Antron Brown and Spencer Massey, who won the event in Charlotte, are both on his heels and will be looking for wins at Royal Purple Raceway, along with defending event winner Morgan Lucas, Winternationals winner Shawn Langdon and past Houston winners Brandon Bernstein and Doug Kalitta.
In Pro Stock, Nobile is looking for his third consecutive victory at this event, but he will be challenged by a strong group of drivers also looking to claim the Wally trophy, including points leader and three-time Houston winner Mike Edwards, along with defending world champ Allen Johnson, four-time RPR winner Jeg Coughlin, and hometown favorite Erica Enders-Stevens, who will try to claim a Pro Stock victory at her home track.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. rides into the event as series points leader on the strength of two season-opening wins and will be looking for continued success aboard his Lucas Oil Buell at a track where he has fond memories. However, Andrew Hines will be going for his fourth consecutive victory at the Texas track on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Other two-wheel racers to watch include three-time and defending world champ Eddie Krawiec, Matt Smith, Scotty Pollacheck, veteran rider Steve Johnson and Hector Arana Sr.
The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense side-by-side competition.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them firsthand to see the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. While visiting the pits, interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway are two popular areas fans won't want to miss.
• SCHEDULE: Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. on Friday, April 26 and continue on Saturday, April 27 at noon and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 28.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available for the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at www.royalpurpleraceway.com or by calling Royal Purple Raceway at (281) 383-RACE (7223). Children 13 and younger will receive free general admission tickets with a paid adult.
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 3 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, April 27 and three hours of eliminations coverage at 2 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 28.
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