August 13, 2012
 

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Local Native Greg Zipadelli Living a Dream In NASCAR

Stewart-Hass Competition Director Greg Zipadelli (right) with Tony Stewart's Crew Chief Steve Addington

By Brian Danko, Staff Writer
The New Britain Herald & Bristol Press

 

Greg Zipadelli is living the dream today but when he was toiling away on modifieds in Berlin, he never thought he would be in the position where he is now.

“You know, when you were working there back then I wanted to be where I am now but you don’t worry about it. Whatever comes comes.” Greg said when reached at his office of Stewart-Haas Racing. “We were more worried about doing what we needed to do then.”

Zipadelli, who grew up in and around the Berlin/New Britain area is now the competition director for Stewart-Haas after years of sitting atop the pit wagon for Tony Stewart and recently Joey Logano when working for Joe Gibbs Racing.

After 14 years of working for Gibbs Racing, Zippy as he is still known by, left when Stewart called and asked to take over the administrative side of racing.

“It was time for a change.” Greg said. “I got tired of the traveling. I have three children and I wanted to spend more time with them, there are many reasons but I just felt it was time to make a change.”


Zippy & wife Nan

But besides running the office and overseeing Stewart-Haas Racing, Greg is in charge of getting Danica Patrick’s’ Sprint Cup team up and running and there he is still atop the pit boxes but for only the races that she is running.


Zippy with Danica Patrick

“She is fun to work with. We are putting the pieces for her to run full time next year. I know the talent level is there. We are working on the communications and making sure that she is asking the right questions.”

When asked how he evaluates her and her success, Greg said continuing to make strides is what the entire team is looking for.

“Every race, we are looking at have her finish higher than the last race and move up in the standings.” Greg said. “We are currently looking for the right person to be her crew chief next year.”

Danica has a legitimate shot at winning the Daytona July Nationwide race where she drives for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. but was taken out in an accident near the end of the race.

The races on top of the pit box are helping Zipadelli get used to the adjustment of NOT being on the pit box all the time.

“I have to admit, it’s harder than I thought it would be but this deal with Danica has made it somewhat easier. You have to remember, I have been doing this a longtime including the modifieds and Busch North series.”

While Greg, his brother, mother and father all moved south, he still has a sister living in Connecticut but now North Carolina is his home just like it is to many former Central Connecticut racers and crew members.

As one of the top people in charge of Stewart-Haas racing, he said it is nice to have some familiar faces working there in Clyde Mcleod, Aaron Kuehn and Jeff Zarrella. He also has seen many former modified crew members who now live down south and work not only on the Sprint Cup side but the Nationwide Series as well as the Truck Series.

One of the people that Greg sees a lot of is former modified tour champion, Mike McLaughlin, who won the title in 1988 when the car was run out of Berlin.

“I see Mike quite a bit. We own a garage together and the kids are always around there. I see Mike Greci a lot too.” Mike was the car owner of the Busch North series team that Mike Stefanik won the championship with and Zipadelli was crew chief for that team also.


Lancaster, N.Y. Speedway. Clyde McLeod (left) Zippy (far right) help out on the Mario Fiore #44

“You know, in a lot of ways it feels like home.” Zippy said. “I had a lot of fun racing in the modified series. Back then we played hard and worked hard. Down here we ONLY work hard.”

Zippy has taken the long road to the top but he, like many, wouldn’t change a minute of it. It was the many victories and the many defeats that define a person and how they handle it.

Greg has handled it with class and never forgets where he came from in Berlin, Ct and how that experience helped shape his life path.

 

Brian Danko has been covering Auto Racing for over 30 years for various magazines & and racing papers including Area Auto Racing News. His weekly column can be seen "In The Print Editions" of  The New Britain Herald & The Bristol Press.

 

Copyright © 2012 Brian Danko