Editor’s Note: I have another project to attend to this week, so I’m going to repost a TJ Zizzo feature from last year.
By David G. Firestone
TJ Zizzo is the driver, he’s based in Lincolnshire Illinois, I’m based in Evanston, I’ve purchased a number of items from him.
One of the things that I got was a visor. When I purchased it back in 2014, I’d been wanting to get an NHRA visor from some time, and I got one that had the modification I’ve been seeing. The visor shows some light use. I asked TJ why he had this modification, and he said that he wants to focus on the task at hand. He said that drag racing drivers can notice things, birds, scoreboards, women in the crowd, etc in the car in the moments leading up to the race, and this modification helps the driver by giving him tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is seen by the majority of people as a bad thing, but in something like drag racing, where intense focus for a brief period of time is a mandate, tunnel vision is a good thing. Top fuel dragsters have 10,000 horsepower and can go from 0 to 325 mph in less than 3 seconds. When you are behind the wheel of a car with that much power, you need to focus on the race as much as possible. TJ wears this style of visor because, the less he can see out of the helmet, the more he can focus on the race. TJ even said that this visor is much less covered than his current version, which looks something like this…In 2014, at the U.S. Nationals, TJ suffered a major engine explosion. He still has the blower drive seen flying in the video. I was amazed how heavy it was. He has one shelf in his new shop that has the pieces of the engine, and the damage suffered, from a fan’s stand point. The manifold that blew was made of solid magnesium and was heavy duty. The crankshaft in question was not only broken, but was slightly bent near the break. I wound up getting one of the rear tires from that race. Rear tires from top fuel dragsters are 3 feet tall by 17 inches wide. I’m planning on getting a glass to and making a coffee table at some point. The level of wear on the tires is amazing, with large patches of damage from the explosion. TJ also signed it and personalized it to me! I also got a front tire, which is 22 inches tall, by 3 inches wide. I’m not sure when it was raced, but it does show wear and it has ZIZZO written on the tread. To give an idea the size difference between the two, here are the two of them together in my office…One of my big gets was a TJ Zizzo Peak parachute. Zizzo ran two of these chutes on the back of his dragster from 2010 to 2013., and this example is 12 feet by 12 feet. It shows a decent amount of wear, with stains and holes. There is a hole in the center that allows the chute to be deployed, and there is an inventory tag placed here as well. On the cables connecting the chute to the car, there is some extra protection. This is necessary because on top fuel dragsters, the engine is very close to the parachute attachment, and in the event of a fire, the chute will still be able to function. TJ’s example shows some wear on the silver layer. One thing that a lot of non drag racing fans don’t realize is that many drivers pack their own chutes. Race car drivers are control freaks, and so this makes sense. The logic a few drivers use is that if I mess it up, I don’t have anyone to blame for it except myself.
The pilot chute is attached here as well. Pilot chutes are universally used to deploy parachutes. When the cords are pulled, and the chute is released, the pilot chute deploys, which catches air and pulls the primary chute behind it. The chutes are strapped to a bar at the back of the car, the straps pre-covered in Nomex to prevent fire damage, then packed into a bag, before the race. I’ve discussed the importance of spark plugs, and their prevalence in the auto racing memorabilia market before, so I won’t go into that again. I will show one of TJ Zizzo’s race-used spark plugs, which he managed to autograph. Given the size of the plug, that isn’t easy to sign.Next week, I will discuss autographed die casts.