The biggest names in professional drag racing are in town this weekend to compete in the 13th annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Two of them are rookies Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria.

Both compete in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series’ Funny Car class and have ties to the Las Vegas quarter mile. DeJoria cut her racing teeth in the NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car class and has raced at The Strip at LVMS a number of times. Force earned her NHRA licenses at The Strip at LVMS. The next logical step for both is a trip to LVMS’ victory lane.

Both have famous fathers. Force is the daughter of 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. DeJoria’s dad is John Paul DeJoria, of Paul Mitchell hair products and Tequila Patr?n.

Force is looking to regroup and make a strong comeback in Las Vegas. Two weeks ago, the NHRA Tire Kingdom Gatornationals didn’t exactly go as Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team had planned. The 23-year-old freshman Funny Car driver struck the guard wall during her third qualifying attempt. Thankfully, she suffered only minor bruising.

“Every time I’m in the seat of my Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car, I’m learning something new,” said Force. “When I hit the guard wall in Gainesville it was just another lesson learned.  As a rookie driver I’m figuring out each race track and the different things that come with it. With my particular run it pulled me a little to the outside, which was immediately when I should have just stepped off (the throttle). However, I stayed in it just a little too long which caused my car to shoot me over to the wall. The best thing I learned from that run is timing – and that I needed to get right back in the car after hitting the wall on a run like that.  My team hustled to be ready for the next qualifying pass and I was ready to jump right back in it.  Dad made it clear that it was crucial to ‘jump back on the horse’ after a hit to the wall like that, and I’m glad I did.”

Force qualified 12th for the event but was eliminated in the first round. She currently sits in seventh place in the NHRA Funny Car point standings.

“It’s so unreal to think that our team is seventh in the points being that this team was built from scratch while having a rookie driver in the seat.  It proves that we have accomplished so much already and we will strive to work harder and do better at every event.  I’m so proud to have them as my team and to have Ron Douglas as crew chief.  It gives me confidence as a driver this early on in the season, which makes me excited to see where it will take us.”

DeJoria’s team is coming off its best race weekend to date. The Kalitta Motorsports Tequila Patr?n Toyota Funny Car team made several solid runs in Gainesville. Her crew chief is 2011 NHRA Top Fuel Dragster champion Del Worsham.

“These past few weeks have been good to us,” said DeJoria. “We had a great showing at the Gatornationals and a successful test session after that. We went through a little bit of a rough patch getting started, but everyone is feeling like we’re back on the right track, headed in the right direction.

“Las Vegas can be tricky because it’s the second-highest altitude that we race at, plus it’s in the middle of the desert, so it can be tough to make power,” DeJoria explained. “If it’s cool out, the track surface is excellent, but if it’s warmer, it can be a bit trickier. We’re betting on the latter, and will tune both Funny Cars (DeJoria’s and teammate Jeff Arend) accordingly.” DeJoria is just as happy about returning to Vegas, a town she refers to as her second home. “I always love racing in Vegas. It’s one of my favorite tracks, plus our family has a house there, so Vegas feels very comfortable to me. With Tequila Patr?n headquartered there, we always get a lot of sponsor support, which is nice. It would be awesome to show our sponsors how far our team has come in such a short period of time.”

The NHRA Weekend kicks off Thursday evening with a free driver autograph session from 6-7:30 p.m. at the New York New York Hotel & Casino. More than 25 drivers are expected to participate (including DeJoria) and the first 200 fans in line will receive a free Summit racing hat.

Tickets for the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals may be purchased online at www.LVMS.com, at the LVMS ticket office or by calling (702) 644-4444. Follow LVMS on Facebook and Twitter.