In 1999 Mark Adelizzi left a 14-year stint at a well-established business and struck out on his own to start a company from scratch. Almost 20 years later, his drive and passion has taken Flatout Gaskets from a speck on the map to an industry leader.
Flatout began as a graphics company, but, as Adelizzi explains, that was never the long-term goal. “When we started, I planned on getting into gaskets, but not right away. We started with graphic design and production. We made decals and signs. We made all the signs for years for IHRA. I was involved with IHRA for a long time on contingency programs and through displays at the track. And then around 2001 we got into gasket manufacturing and started to grow the product line from there. The first catalog was like 6 pages and now it’s 15. We have just added to the line as we went and really targeted performance V8 engines, as well as some 4- and 6-cylinder engines, but mostly the stuff you see at the drag strip.”
Now their gaskets are utilized by countless champions, and the Mundelein, Illinois company continues to have a major impact on the industry, not only through incredible performance but also through programs and sponsorships like the PDRA’s Flatout Gaskets Nitrous Wars, arguably the most successful program of the series.
Innovative design never quits at Flatout Gaskets, as Adelizzi jokes he was recently drawing gasket sketches while flying home from vacation. In an industry where performance rules all, Flatout is setting a standard that’s impossible to deny. The current push for Adelizzi is a new design for Top Fuel head gaskets. He readily admits he’s drawn to the highest performing classes and uses that to his advantage, where “trickle-down technology” has a positive impact on everything from Top Fuel to 4-cylinder engines, as well as crossing over into areas such as performance diesels.
“We’ve done a lot of new things in Top Fuel and Pro Extreme, especially in the 5.3” bore space area,” Adelizzi elaborates. “I seem to be drawn to the fastest cars to try to come up with solutions to solve problems. We’ve done a lot of innovative things with gaskets over the years, things that were never done before, one of them being silicone coating on upper gaskets to seal the coolant. That was one of the first things we did. From there we’ve done a lot of innovative things like embossing gaskets around certain areas to increase their pressure on the head and the block to give it better sealing locally.
“We’ve worked with engine builders and manufacturers on their newest stuff before it was even released. We’ve built good relationships with people like Charlie Buck, Reher-Morrison, Sonny Leonard, Pat Musi and so on – every top engine builder in the country, including manufacturers like Alan Johnson and Brodix and Dart. It’s been good. It’s taken a while to get there. People don’t like to change anything and that includes gaskets. We have to get them to take a chance and try something new they’ve never done before. Once they do it and see how well it works, they’re usually customers and friends for life.”
Flatout Gaskets has customers across the industry with well-known names like Top Fuel drivers Steve Torrence, Clay Millican and Terry McMillen. “I sell Alan Johnson everything else except copper head gaskets on all his Top Fuel engines. And there’s a few other teams we do the same thing with. Selling to Alan gives a trickle-down effect because he sells to most of the top pro teams directly. So we end up being on a lot of those teams, like Pro Line and some of the other fast Pro Mod guys that run his product.
“We strive for a high-quality product,” he continues. “I only use the highest quality products available on the market. I don’t want to take a chance with a guy’s $80,000 engine just because something in the material failed or leaked. I won’t have it. I’m always on overkill when it comes to materials. I’m always seeking the best coatings and materials to help improve the products. Quality is número uno here. We push it pretty hard.”
That commitment has made Flatout Gaskets an industry leader with a wide range of offerings. In recent years, the company has utilized its full CNC fab shop to fabricate products for manufacturers outside of the gasket business. Flatout can cover everything from design to production for products of all metal types, including stainless, chrome moly, steel, aluminum and copper.
“You have to diversify in this day and age because you just don’t know what’s going to happen next year,” explains the Illinois native. “We’re doing more and more fab work all the time and doing gaskets for things outside of racing all the time, like the performance diesel stuff. We’ve grown that part of it. That’s not the focus of our business, but they come to us and we find solutions for them and that creates a good relationship.”
One of the things that sets Flatout Gaskets apart is their use of a fiber optic laser to cut copper gaskets. This type of laser technology has only been available for about five years and Flatout is one of the few to utilize the benefits, preferring to cut on their fiber optic laser over the more widely used water jet.
Adelizzi hopes to debut his new Top Fuel gaskets at PRI, just in time to ring in his 20th year of business. “It’s hard to believe [it’s been 20 years]. Seems like yesterday. Launching the new gaskets will be fun. It’s just constant evolution in that class, as well as every other class. It’s trickle-down technology. Once we prove this new concept in Top Fuel, it’ll trickle down into the alcohol classes, plus Pro Mod and Funny Car. It’s exciting.”
This story originally appeared in DI #135, the State of Drag Issue, in August of 2018.