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Zizzo Wraps Up 2023 on Las Vegas High

Veteran Top Fuel driver TJ Zizzo wrapped up his return to the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season with a strong showing at the NHRA Nevada Nationals even if it did not culminate with a trip to the winner’s circle. Making his seventh trip to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Zizzo and the Rust-Oleum Top Fuel dragster team kept his streak alive of qualifying every time he has entered the NHRA national event. After two days of qualifying Zizzo wound up No. 13 and faced championship contender Doug Kalitta in the first round. Zizzo knew he would have his hands full but based on all the changes the team made this season he was up to the challenge.

“We have a completely new operation which is brand new from tip to tail,” said Zizzo. “Being able to go out to our first event earlier this year, after testing, and go to the semifinal round was huge. We stumbled a little and we were humbled at our next event. We kept working on every race and we are ending on a super high note here in Las Vegas.  These are things I am proud of that we persevere. We don’t quit. We keep our heads down and keep on working. I just wish we could go to Pomona in two weeks.”
After four qualifying runs Zizzo and his Mike Kern tuned 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster made their best run of qualifying on Saturday night, a 3.800 second pass at 326.00 mph which moved him up to No. 13 going into race day. Facing Kalitta the Rust-Oleum Top Fuel team was ready to build on their Saturday night success. The team knew they were behind the eight ball but felt that could make an improved run in the first round.
“This weekend we came here with brand new cylinder heads from Don Schumacher Racing,” said Zizzo. “Why would we do that? We do it because we’re confident in the parts. The only thing that was a negative this weekend is that we have a little bit of new car blues. We’re still working through some things and we’ve only made two dozen runs plus on this car. Now little things are creeping up on us like power wires. Once again as a team, we worked really hard we figured the problems out. We made our Q2 pass during E1.”

Kalitta was first off the line but Zizzo and the Rust-Oleum were right with the Mac Tools team heading down the track. At the finish line Kalitta made the quickest runs of the session for the win posting a 3.683 second pass at 334.73 mph in front of a much-improved time by Zizzo, 3.719 seconds at 318.99 mph.
“We’re not going to change much over the winter,” said Zizzo. “We have made great strides and we will be ready for next season. This is a great team and being able to spend time with my family is a blessing. I got to drive with my dad out to the races. That’s over 2,000 miles together and it was awesome. The on track performance is important but so are the special moments off the track.”
Following this weekend’s race Zizzo will be showing off a Rust-Oleum Wipe New Top Fuel dragster at the SEMA show this week at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

This story was originally published on October 31, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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