JOLIET, Ill.—From the ninth qualifying position in the NHRA Top Fuel class at Route 66 Raceway Sunday, Chicago native TJ Zizzo was able to beat Don Schumacher Racing’s Leah Pritchet in the first round. Unfortunately, E2 wasn’t as positive for the Rust-Oleum Rocket crew as the NHRA Route 66 Nationals’ polesitter took the win light. Mike Salinas was Zizzo’s opponent with TJ hazing the tires of his rail at about the 330-foot mark, giving the round win to Salinas and ending the weekend for the home team.
Zizzo’s first pass against Pritchet was a winner with an ET of 3.821 seconds at 313.22 mph. Pritchet had a strong car, but an engine failure that also punctured the left rear tire gave TJ the victory. Pritchet walked away injury-free after the scary incident.
In Rd. 2, Zizzo faced Salinas, who’s been winning poles and winning rounds all year. Unfortunately for Zizzo Racing, that trend continued Sunday afternoon. The pair were side-by-side for the first 300 feet or so when TJ’s car struck the tires.
Considering it wasn’t long ago Zizzo Racing were fighting and scraping just to make the show, Zizzo said it’s hard to be disappointed with his crew’s results this weekend.
“We’ve come a long way,” Zizzo said after E2. “I remember coming here, praying we’d get in the show. Finally, we’d claw our way there, just excited to do that, but knowing we’d have to have some luck first round. This team doesn’t need luck anymore. We perform well, we outperform the best teams here. We’re going to work really hard to get to the US Nationals. That’s our next race.”
Despite being a part-time team, the crew has been together for years. Twice a week, every week, regardless of how many races are on the schedule, Zizzo Racing meets to work on the car. That level of familiarity with both the car and each other has created an environment of winning.
“From a driver’s standpoint, these guys give me a great car that’s easier to drive which allows me to focus on my job, which is super,” he said. “We’re racing against the most elite competitors in the sport, the most elite crew chiefs. We have one crew chief. Most of these teams have three. So yeah, we’re going to come out and make some errors, but to be in that Elite 8? We’re in good company!
“If we get the money to go to more events, we’ll be ultra competitive.”
By The Numbers:
Q1: 6.023 seconds at 107.60 mph
Q2: 3.782 seconds at 323.12 mph
Q3: 3.835 seconds at 320.74 mph
Q4: 6.065 seconds at 102.95 mph
E1: 3.821 seconds at 313.22 mph, win over Leah Pritchet
E2: 4.013 seconds at 256.75 mph, loss to Mike Salinas
Zizzo Racing’s next scheduled race is the NHRA US Nationals near Indianapolis Labor Day weekend.
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.