CLERMONT, Ind. (July 12, 2020) – Any round win earned during NHRA Mello Yello Series competition is a good thing, but sometimes, it’s not as good a thing as it should’ve been. TJ Zizzo went 1-1 Sunday at Lucas Oil Raceway in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, the team’s first race of the year and the series’ first event since most of the nation was shut down in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zizzo earned the E1 victory against Cory McClenathan with a 3.778-second pass at 326.40 mph, one of the quickest Top Fuel passes of the weekend. Unfortunately, the Chicagoland native fell to Billy Torrence in Rd. 2, Zizzo’s 3.822-second lap at 319.14 mph unable to top Torrence’s 3.768-second run.
In the first round of eliminations, Zizzo, the fifth-place qualifier, faced McClenathan, who entered the day starting from the 12th position. Zizzo commenced his burnout in the Rust-Oleum Rocket and began backing up. However, when MacClenathan tried to back up, nothing happened.“Cory Mac couldn’t get it in reverse,” Zizzo said. “Absolutely spotted that right away when I was backing up from my burnout. They tried vigorously to get it worked out, it didn’t happen. The team ran out to push them back and at this point, we’re ready to stage the car. It took them a long time to push the car back, which is understandable, everyone has troubles.”
While Zizzo and the Rust-Oleum crew understood MacClenathan’s woes, they also understood the longer their rail sat idling, the better the chances were the car would run out of fuel. When that happens, engines can tear themselves apart, which is what happened to the Zizzo Racing dragster.
“Our car sat for two-and-a-half minutes from the time I started it to the time I staged it,” he said. “By that point, it had burned a lot of fuel, two gallons more than normal. The starter and I didn’t communicate as well as I would have liked as a driver. My team told me to put it in, I put it in stage, I went down the race track, and I blew it up right at the finish line because we ran out of fuel.”
Zizzo spoke to NHRA officials both at the top end and at the starting line and said everything is resolved. He said Cory Mac also stopped by the Rust-Oleum pit to talk about the situation as well.
Beyond the drama, Zizzo said he was pleased with the team’s performance this weekend and is looking forward to getting back on the track here again next weekend.
“The car ran well, it ran good, although it was 30 lbs lighter than it was all weekend because we burned fuel at the starting line,” he said. “Billy Torrence, man. They’re a first-rate team. Billy Torrence, Steve Torrence, right now, they have the best cars on the property. I looked at the ladder yesterday and I knew we’d have to go through both of them to win this event, which would make us look like heroes.
“And it was a good race! I left on him a little bit, our car moved first, we were just a little slow in the middle, he outpowered us in the middle, and to the finish line, we were dead even. It was a good race. The cool thing is, we get to do this again in just five short days, so it’s good.”
Zizzo Racing By The Numbers:
Q1: 3.980 seconds at 278.52 mph
Q2: 3.862 seconds at 310.41 mph
E1: Win over Cory McClenathan, 3778 seconds at 326.40 mph
E2: Loss to Billy Torrence, 3.822 seconds 319.14 mph
The Rust-Oleum Rocket crew returns to Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis for next weekend’s NHRA Mello Series race.
Fans of TJ Zizzo and Zizzo Racing can find updates and photos of the Rust-Oleum Top Fuel team by checking out:
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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Photo Credit: Richard Shute/Auto Imagery, Tyler Evoniuk and Zizzo Racing