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The Rust-Oleum Rocket Overpowers the Track, Zizzo 13th after Q1


zizzoINDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 1 2018)  – In front of packed grandstands under the night sky, the Chevrolet Performance NHRA US Nationals kicked off with header flames and quick runs at Lucas Oil Raceway. Unfortunately for TJ Zizzo and the crew of the Rust-Oleum Rocket, the temptation to put up a big number on the first night led to tire shake near the finish line, putting Zizzo in the provisional 13th qualifying position after Day 1 with a pass of 4.514 seconds at 171.05 mph.

“Hey, what can you say?” said Zizzo after qualifying. “We just got after it a little bit and it smoked the tires. It felt good, all the engine parts looked good. Everything looks good for tomorrow. We’ll back her down just a touch and we’ll skirt right on through there. All is well, we’re packing this baby up and we’ll be back tomorrow.”

Zizzo overall was pleased with both the car and the track, saying sometimes, it’s not a bad idea to have a little adversity to keep the team honest.

TJ Zizzo profile

TJ Zizzo

“The car was nice and smooth. It was trucking along just like I thought it would. You know, we haven’t done that in a while and sometimes, you gotta do that once in a while.”

Crew chief Mike Kern, celebrating his 50th birthday Friday, agreed with Zizzo that while it wasn’t the way they wanted to start the weekend, having four more rounds of qualifying provides a band-aid for tonight’s run.

“With the track conditions that we saw the Funny Cars run in, several cars went 3.92 to 3.94 in our lane, so we assumed that there’s enough track to hold a 3.77 or a 3.78,” said Kern, an Illinois native and second-generation racer. “A couple of the other dragsters did do that and we did not. It appears we had too much driveshaft speed and missed it by just a little bit.

“We got a little bit ahead of ourselves. Tomorrow, we’ll just have to look at the track conditions, back everything down, and try to race the race track and see where we end up.”

zizzoQualifying Results:
Q1: 4.514 seconds at 171.05 mph

Rounds two and three of nitro qualifying are scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. with the final two qual rounds running Sunday at 12:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Eliminations are expected to commence Monday at 11 a.m.

TJ in the Media: TJ was the subject of a feature at where he discusses the team’s decision to race the Big Go. Also, produced an awesome write up of Tony Zizzo’s return to the track with the legendary Avenger!

Fans of TJ Zizzo and Zizzo Racing can find updates and photos of the Rust-Oleum Top Fuel team by checking out, Twitter at @ZizzoRacing, Instagram at @TJZizzo, and 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.

About Rust-Oleum:
For nearly a century, Rust-Oleum has been the global leader in manufacturing innovative coatings that empower do-it-yourselfers and professionals alike across categories including small project paints, cleaners, primers, automotive, industrial, high performance coatings and wood care. Its wide breadth of brands and products include such trusted names as Rust-Oleum, Stops Rust®, Painter’s Touch®, Krud Kutter®, Universal®, EpoxyShield®, Varathane®, Zinsser®, MultiSpec®, Testors®, Modern Masters®, and Watco®. Visit for more information.