LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill.—Ask most drag racers and drag racing fans their opinion on the biggest annual event in the sport and the vast majority of them will say ‘Indy’ before the question is done being asked. For TJ Zizzo, pilot of the Rust-Oleum Rocket Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA Mello Yello Series, everything for him and his team in the past month has been about A-I.
“Lately at the shop, the joke has been ‘AI,'” Zizzo said. “Everything that is going on here at the shop is After Indy. For example, I’m sitting in our front offices right now because it’s kind of quiet up here and they are completely in the refurbish mode. No carpets, no tile, lights are removed, walls are being painted, you know, the typical refurbishing of offices for our front offices at our shop. I pretty much put that on hold and said ‘AI! Everything is After Indy!'”
It’s been a solid 2019 season for Zizzo Racing, despite the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis being only the third event the team has entered this year. Zizzo put the Rust-Oleum rail in the provisional No. 1 position on Day 1 at Gainesville earlier this season, finishing the weekend in the semi-finals. In Joliet, Zizzo made it past recent Brainerd winner Leah Pritchett in the opening round of eliminations.
Whenever the Zizzos arrive at the track, there is usually talk about the struggles of being an independent team only racing a handful of events. The talk quiets down when TJ starts laying laps down and teams realize the Rust-Oleum crew isn’t there to pretend to be a race team and feel lucky to make the show. They’re there to turn on win lights. Period.
“We’re not a team that makes big changes,” he said. “We just continue to work on what we have and continue to improve what we have to make sure we continue to be competitive. We should start where we ended up at Joliet in E2. Or E1. Or Q4. We don’t deviate from our plan and that’s by design. That makes us a better team moving forward.”
But this isn’t Joliet. Or Gainesville. This is Indy.
“Indy, man…it’s the big one,” Zizzo said, smiling. “It’s what you expect. It’s what you want. It’s what you want on your resume. When you win that event, that’s what you want. That’s what I want, it’s what our team wants. We’ll take it one round at a time, we’ll take it one qualifying round at a time, one eliminations round at a time, and then hopefully, at 3:45 pm Monday afternoon, I’m holding a Wally.
“That’s the goal.”
TJ in the Media: TJ Zizzo was a recent guest on DragZine’s podcast where he discussed his racing career & what Indy means to him. To listen, click HERE.
The Chevrolet Performance US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis kicks off Friday evening at 8 p.m. EDT with Q1 of nitro. Q2 is scheduled for 2 p.m. with Q3 running at 5 p.m. Sunday’s Top Fuel qualifying starts at 2:30 p.m. with the final round of quals expected at 5:30 p.m. Eliminations begin Monday at 11 a.m.
Fans of TJ Zizzo and Zizzo Racing can find updates and photos of the Rust-Oleum Top Fuel team by checking out ZizzoRacing.com, Twitter at @ZizzoRacing, Instagram at @TJZizzo, and Facebook.com/TJZizzo.
About Zizzo Racing:
Zizzo Racing has been involved in drag racing at the top levels for more than 30 years. Based in Lincolnshire, Ill. and owned by Tony Zizzo, the team started racing in 1980 in the Top Alcohol Dragster class, moving to nitro with TJ in 2004 after earning his class license. In 2007, TJ Zizzo finished second in the final IHRA standings and now competes on a part-time basis in the NHRA Mello Yello Series.
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