Through The Esses - Tony Nuzzo Is In Racing In A MINI-mal Way
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08/22/06 - © Andrew S. Hartwell

The game of sportscar racing has always attracted successful and competitive businessmen with cash to burn on a sport that is both fast paced and physically demanding. And they do it while wearing a broad smile brought on by the adrenaline rush of spirited racing. When you have a lot of money, and you know what it takes to succeed in the fast paced world of big business, it seems only natural that you would take up racing to keep your speed up.

You just have to accept that racing can sure take your bank account down.

Today's race teams are very much in tune with the need to sustain an economic footing that ensures continued participation. It isn't about just going fast for a few races anymore. Today the goal is to run a team for a full season as a successful business. And to be the team that attracts the talented - and paying - customers so you can indeed be considered successful.

Our aged mind can't recall who first said, If you want to make a small fortune in racing, start with a large one' but this racing axiom can be modified a bit if you apply at least a MINI-mum amount of attention to the balance sheet. We know that now, for we recently spoke with racer and Grand Am Cup series sportscar race team owner Tony Nuzzo.

How you measure your success is really a matter of personal choice. For Nuzzo, success means getting wheel time for yourself without running your team in the red. And we suppose, it doesn't hurt that his MINI -Coopers are blue, as in the blue ink every businessman wants to see on his bottom line.

We talked with Nuzzo about his twin- MINI Coopers, #20 and #22, and how he runs his race team in the ST Class of the Grand American Cup Series. He told us his racing career started in a Porsche Boxster, then a Porsche GT3, an Acura, and finally, the twin MINIs.

I started out in the Porsche Club. I was the first one in the United States to race a Boxster. My first pro race was in the Rolex GT when I raced a Porsche GT3 car in 2001. The next year I ran with the Nonnamaker's team. That was my first full season of racing in Grand Am Cup. And that year I took third place honors in the driver's championship.

Three years ago, Nuzzo retired from his profession and since then, he has made the business of racing his only business.

I retired from the computer business and at 53 years old all I do now is race cars. I had my own consulting company and in my later years I was working with a financial company with billions of dollars in assets. Back when the Euro dollar was being introduced they needed somebody to come in and manage the conversions and so they called on me.

Now I am a full time team owner and driver. I chose Grand Am Cup because I like the endurance racing format. I think there is nothing more exciting than when you have a race where you can be in the car for a few hours at a time.

The mighty MINIs' box-like shape makes for a striking contrast on the track when racing against the sleeker and more like-sculpted cars from Acura, Chevrolet, and even BMW. That unique quality appealed to Nuzzo when he decided he would start up his own race team.

We were evaluating where we wanted to go after our season in the Acura and, like a lot of other people, I am a bit of a control freak. I like to control the whole ball of wax so we decided to put our own team together. That year - late 2002 - I was talking to a friend of mine who was considering doing the same thing. We were sitting on a side of a mountain up in Montreal, having a few beers, just talking and he said he was looking to do what I wanted to do and had been looking at the new cars that were coming out on the scene that year.

There were two cars that were getting all the attention back then. The Nissan 350Z and the MINI Cooper. I thought the MINI would be the right choice for us and I do not regret that decision in the least.

Currently we have two car