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Mon, 24 Jun 2013, 17:46 PM

Illinois Native Zizzo Looks for Success at Hometown Track Route 66 Raceway
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2013 NHRA

JOLIET, Ill. --

TJ Zizzo
When the heart-pounding excitement of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series grabs hold of Route 66 Raceway for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, the 12th of 24 events June 27-30, TJ Zizzo will be looking to mark off a Top Fuel victory from his wish list at his home track. The Lincolnshire, Ill., native says that just to have his family and friends cheering in the stands is priceless, but a win there would be remarkable.

"We are lucky to have that track in our backyard," said Zizzo, driver of the Peak Motor Oil Performance dragster. "Over the years, I have become very close to most of the personnel at the track; they treat me like family. I made my first runs in Top Fuel at that track. My wife and kids get a chance to come to the Chicago event, and that makes me feel great."

Zizzo, who made his NHRA debut in 2003 at Route 66 Raceway, knows that every round counts. Zizzo's most memorable moment of 2012 was finally earning a round victory, against fellow Illinois native Tony Schumacher at this event last year.

"It was a great day. I did not like the way I beat him, and after watching the replay, I was happy he was not injured," Zizzo said of Schumacher who suffered a catastrophic engine explosion during the run. "The first time I qualified for a race in 2004, he beat me, and I had lost to him four times after that. So to finally beat him was a great feeling. Anytime we beat a DSR (Don Schumacher Racing) team, it is a great sense of satisfaction. DSR has great teams, and anytime you pull to the line, you know you need to be on your game."

In 2012, Zizzo raced to two quarterfinal finishes and set a career-best time (Englishtown, N.J.) and speed (Houston). He will again be one of the local favorites at Route 66 Raceway and remains focused in the new season.

"Some people may question changing, but evolution is the key to success in Top Fuel," Zizzo said. "We are focusing on our tune-up. We do not make a lot of runs, so it takes us more time, not runs, to make improvements. This new season, we have been getting better and qualifying at every race. We have seven more events this year, and I can guarantee we will eclipse those career-best runs by the end of the year - guaranteed or your money back."

The Zizzo Racing team is participating in more events with the continued sponsorship of Peak Motor Oil, and Zizzo is adamant about his love for the sport.

TJ Zizzo
"I love the challenge," Zizzo said. "Driving a Top Fuel car is the ultimate, and to do it with my dad and a large group of friends makes it very rewarding. I never complain -it can be 1 o'clock in the morning or 110 degrees and humid. The only challenge we have is not smiling ear to ear. Our team is always excited to put their skills to the test. We are competing against the best in the world! Every person at an NHRA national event would love to be in my shoes, and I enjoy the challenge of the fight."

Reigning world champion Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jeff Arend (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event near Chicago. The race will be televised on ESPN2HD.

This season, the Top Fuel category has produced incredible side-by-side racing, with three-time Chicago champ and seven-time world champ Schumacher holding the points lead by one point over Al-Anabi Racing driver Shawn Langdon, who has three 2013 event wins. Defending world champ Brown sits in fourth behind 2009 Chicago winner Spencer Massey, runner-up at the tour's most recent stop. Others to watch include Khalid alBalooshi, Morgan Lucas and three-time event victor Doug Kalitta.

In Funny Car, 2011 world champ Matt Hagan is leading the charge after two wins in his Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger this season. Two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon also has won twice in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry and is right behind Hagan in the points standings. Versatile Johnny Gray has raced to three victories this season, the most in the category, in his Pitch Energy Dodge Charger and sits in third. Robert Hight, John Force and Winternationals winner Courtney Force also will be racing hard for a victory, as will defending world champ Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Springfield, Ill., native Tim Wilkerson and veteran driver Del Worsham. All are eager to roar down famed Route 66 Raceway for fans at the most family-friendly, driver-accessible event in the world of motorsports.

2009 world champ Mike Edwards, who is having another dream season with nine No. 1 qualifying positions and three wins in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro and is a two-time champ at Route 66 Raceway; and the Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger tandem of defending world champ Allen Johnson and four-time Chicago winner Jeg Coughlin; as well as Winternationals champ Vincent Nobile and past event champions Greg Anderson and Jason Line.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. has won three races aboard his Lucas Oil Buell and has been battling a large contingent of challengers in the two-wheel category, including defending world champ Eddie Krawiec on one of the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidsons, veteran Suzuki rider Steve Johnson, two-time Chicago champion Hines, Viper Motorcycle Co. Buell rider John Hall, Englishtown winner Michael Ray and many others.

Fans will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favorite drivers because every ticket is a pit pass that grants full access to the professional pit area. The whole weekend will be a true sensory-overload experience: Fans will be treated to the special Two Nights of Nitro (Friday and Saturday) and what promises to be an exciting championship Sunday in addition to jet-car exhibition runs Friday night and the popular JEGS Allstars special bonus race Saturday, exclusively for qualified competitors in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

Qualifying for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals will begin Friday, June 28, with sessions at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 29, at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 30.

To purchase tickets, visit Route 66 Raceway at or call 888-629-RACE (7223). For more information about NHRA, please visit

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