LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill.—TJ Zizzo and the crew of the Rust-Oleum Rocket NHRA Top Fuel team kick off their season this weekend at the 50th Annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. In addition to a new gold paint scheme, the Zizzo Racing rail kicks off the season with some other changes.
“We’ve done a couple improvements over the offseason and that should correlate into better ETs, but that’s to be determined, right?” Zizzo said. “Anytime you lose five percent of weight off a race car, it should be a little bit of a challenge, but as always, our team members will get it organized.”
And this weekend, at one of the most heavily-promoted NHRA Mello Yello Series events in recent memory, all the team members will be on property to kick off the weekend. Unlike the last time in 2013 when crew chief Mike Kern was hanging out with then-President Barrack Obama.
“We had to run our race car without him,” Zizzo said. “Thank God for great people in the pit area, because it was a challenge! We had great people in the pit area (like) Dom Lagana, Ron Tobler, John Collins, a lot of guys helping us out, making sure the Friday went well because Kern was able to make it to the track Saturday morning and we went back to normal.
“Needless to say, no Presidents of the United States this year, we’ll all be there, all the same returning team members and there’s a lot of them! It’s neat that, year in and year out, we get to run with the same group of people working on this race car. It makes it so much better.”
Currently, the team plans to run the Rust-Oleum Rocket at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. May 30-June 2 and the US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis Labor Day weekend.
Zizzo and the crew have shortened their schedule by a lot from the days when they would race anywhere from eight to 11 events a season. Now, while they compete at fewer races, the equipment is there to make legitimate passes for round wins. Zizzo’s personal records for speed and ET are regularly busted with the Chicago native hoping to update his current PRs of 3.752 seconds at 329.18 mph.
Coming into this weekend, Zizzo was philosophical about drag racing and his place within it.
“It’s just really cool to go out and be able to drag race and to be able to do it with great friends,” he said. “My family allows me to do it, Dad’s a great supporter of it all, of course, and it’s like a band. I just saw the movie Bohemian Rhapsody recently and it goes to show how something is put together with the proper team members at the proper time and it works out.
“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. You can try to force things as much as you want in this world especially in the form of drag racing, but when it’s meant to be, things work out.”
Round 1 of nitro qualifying at the 50th Annual Gatornationals kicks off Friday at 2:15 p.m. EDT with Q2 scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Saturday’s rounds of qualifying begins at 1 p.m. with the final round set to run at 4:15 p.m. Eliminations run Sunday 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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