One of Illinois’ own will be blazing down the strip this weekend at the NHRA’s Route 66 Nationals. He’s T.J. Zizzo of Lincolnshire.
“This is an extreme sport,’ says Zizzo. “It’s something that’s in my blood.”
Zizzo competes in the Rustoleum Top Fuel Dragster. He’s been racing for 25 years experiencing the thrill of going from zero to 320 miles per hour in less than four seconds.
“Am I in control? I’d say about 80 percent of the time the car is driving me,” says Zizzo. “We make about 11,000 horsepower if you can even fathom that.”
Zizzo got hooked on drag racing at a young age. His father Tony was a successful racer.
His neighbor was current eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher.
“There are many times that I would call him or he would stop by our shop or I would go to his house and ask him questions,” says Zizzo.
The Route 66 Nationals will be Zizzo’s first event this year. He’s devoted most of his time to getting his family’s primary business a body shop up to speed while also getting his dragster ready to hit top speeds.
So what’s he thinking during those brief seconds before the light turns green and while he’s flying down the strip?
“A lot goes through my mind in that,” says Zizzo. “First of all if I see green I am way too late. You better be stomping on that throttle when you see a flash of yellow.”
While the races are over in the blink of an eye the preparation for them is extensive.
“We spend about 400 hours per run working on our race car.,” says Zizzo. “We’re spending thousands of hours essentially of our time per event prepping and getting ready.”
“What my goal is is to let nobody down on our race team. We have 13 team members who travel the country with us, and I just want to make darn well sure that I don’t make a mistake.”
“There’s only 40 of us in the country that still get a chance to do this on a regular basis I would say…and it’s fantastic!”
The Route 66 Nationals run Thursday through Sunday. Portions of it will be shown on Fox Sports 1.
For more information go to www.route66raceway.com or to www.NHRA.com.