Rust-Oleum Top Fuel Dragster and TJ Zizzo Head into Race Day at NHRA Midwest Nationals

photo by Auto Imagery, Inc.

The NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway wowed a sellout crowd today with the third quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history. TJ Zizzo and the  Rust-Oleum Rocket Top Fuel team will be a part of race day tomorrow on the strength of their Friday night qualifying run which gave crew chief Mike Kern, clutch specialist Tony Smith and consultant Rahn Tobler the opportunity to continue to modify their tune-up throughout the day today.

“The run Friday was an improvement in the sense of what we had in the racecar,” said Kern. “We made a lot of changes on that run. It worked to our favor to a point. We are thankful to have that run today. We were disappointed last night but we got in the show with that run. Our goal is to always come out on Friday and get a good run on the table. You need that especially with three qualifiers. Friday gave us something to work off. We’ll come up with something for tomorrow and be good.”

This was the second race of the season for Zizzo Racing and as the No. 15 qualifier he will be facing Brittany Force in the first round. Zizzo has a career record of 1-2 against Force with their most recent race coming at the 2019 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. The team knows that the early start time will bring favorable conditions to all the teams in competition.

“Conditions should be more favorable during the first round and then it will warm up more in the afternoon than what we saw today. That first run tomorrow will be critical,” added Kern.

In the first session today Zizzo overpowered the track and drove into immediate tire shake. Track conditions were warmer than Friday night and teams took a slightly more conservative approach when applying power to the racetrack. Highlighting how powerful Zizzo’s 11,000 horsepower Rust-Oleum Top Fuel dragster is after launching and losing traction immediately his race car still reached the finish line in 9.593 seconds and was going 83.96 mph.

“We have been trying to search for some ET early,” said Kern, who tuned Zizzo to a runner-up finish at last season’s Summernationals. “We haven’t quite found it yet. We have been trying some things. We know we can back up and run 3.75 seconds with an old set-up tomorrow morning. Our questionsis do we swing at it a little bit or do we take what we have learned this weekend from what has worked and didn’t work. We haven’t made huge changes. There have been some positives in there for sure. That last run kind of threw us for a loop. It should have run a 3.76 or 3.77.”

Friday night the team hit the track with a strong 3.798 second pass that had Zizzo in the top half of the field for most of the session. It was a solid effort to get the Rust-Oleum team well positioned for the final two qualifying sessions.

The Rust-Oleum Rocket team and the rest of the Top Fuel teams will get the race day started tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. CT with the race broadcast commencing on FS1 at 1 p.m. CT. 

Qualifying Runs

Q1: 3.798 sec., 325.53 mph; Qual. 11

Q2: 9.593 sec., 83.96 mph; Qual. 14

Q3: 5.426 sec., 125.35 mph; Qual. 15

Final Qualifying Position

TJ Zizzo, Lincolnshire, Illinois, Rust-Oleum Rocket, No. 15, 3.798 sec, 325.53 mph

First Round Opponent (W-L)

Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Monster Energy dragster, (1-2)

Tony Fay PR