Mountain Motor Pro Stock veteran Tony Gillig, who has raced for the last three years in PDRA Pro Outlaw 632 and NMCA Nitrous Pro Street, will return to his roots later this fall when he debuts the family’s new Jerry Haas-built Pontiac GXP in PDRA Extreme Pro Stock. He’s sold the Gillig-Wagner Motorsports Oldsmobile Cutlass, and the team is in the process of preparing the GXP for Mountain Motor Pro Stock competition.
“We can’t wait,” Gillig said. “We’re real excited about it. It all came together really quick. We’ve always wanted to race Pro Stock again.”
Gillig raced IHRA and NHRA Pro Stock in the 1990s, driving a family-owned Oldsmobile Cutlass with considerable success. His career continued through the 2000s as a hired-gun wheelman in the Fun Ford Series, securing a championship in his first season before returning to IHRA Pro Stock for the 2003-2006 seasons. He made his last pass down the track in Extreme Pro Stock in 2011, unsure when he would race again. In 2018, the Chicago area racer partnered with his father, Bob, and brother-in-law, Billy Wagner, to field a Cutlass in Pro Outlaw 632.
The Gillig-Wagner team was successful with the car, winning three NMCA Nitrous Pro Street races and a PDRA Pro Outlaw 632 race. But with a naturally aspirated car, it was increasingly hard to find a competitive edge against fields made up mostly of nitrous-assisted cars. Adding nitrous wasn’t an option, so the team started eyeing a return to Mountain Motor Pro Stock.
“We’re just Pro Stock racers, period,” Gillig said. “My brother-in-law started out working for [John] Montecalvo and he went 500-inch racing with Larry Morgan. We always did well Mountain Motor racing. The 632 car started out as a ‘let’s go racing again and keep it low key’ kind of thing. We just went haywire and it became a quest to go as fast as we could, like anything else we’ve done.
“The class is great,” Gillig continued. “I love the 632 class. It’s just that running a NA car there against some of the nitrous stuff is hard. They’re spraying them, and we can’t do much except deal with the air and maybe a little bit of ratio change here and there. That’s it. It isn’t really a good NA class for us, and I didn’t want to start spraying that thing. That’s where this little project came from.”
Gillig reached out to Jerry Haas Race Cars shop foreman and fellow MMPS racer John DeFlorian to see if he knew of any Pontiac GXPs for sale. In turned out Haas’ son-in-law, Scott Perrin, had an ex-Gordie Rivera GXP for sale. The Gilligs checked it out and decided it was right for them. The car is still at Haas’ shop for some updates, then Gillig will take delivery of the car to complete the process.
“It’ll be a fun project,” Gillig said. “The car is really close to being race ready. The car was already sitting there with a Hemi in it and a Liberty. The transition for us will be pretty easy. That will be nice. The Cutlass project was a complete do-over from top to bottom, inside and out. This project will be a lot less time consuming and a lot less involved to get us where it needs to be.”
Power will come from a Jon Kaase-built 825ci Chevy-Hemi topped with four-barrel carburetors from AED Competition. Gillig will utilize a dual-disc Ram clutch and a Liberty’s Gears 5-speed transmission. The car will also feature products from Gillig’s returning supporters from the 632 car like Race Star Wheels, Flatout Gaskets, PRS shocks, Total Seal piston rings, Fire Core ignition wires, NGK Spark Plugs, Ram Clutches, Maxima Oils, and Featherlite batteries. His major sponsor, Dayco, will also support the Pro Stock program. The GXP will sport a new look designed by Rod Burke.
Gillig hasn’t been completely removed from the Mountain Motor Pro Stock scene in recent years. In 2019, he ran four PDRA Extreme Pro Stock races as the driver of Eddie and WR Buck’s “Big Daddy Warlock” Chevy Cavalier. He had to step away to focus on his family’s restaurant, Wayne’s Pizza, following the loss of a longtime key employee.
“We jumped on that opportunity to drive and work with Eddie and WR, which was awesome,” Gillig said. “We had a great time. They were just coming out and getting their feet wet in MMPS after racing clutch cars their whole lives. We were getting back in the Mountain Motor game with them. Looking forward to racing with those guys, racing against them and doing our own deal.”
Fields of over 25 cars were common when Gillig was racing IHRA Pro Stock in the mid-2000s. The class has shrunk to less than half that over the past 15 years, but Gillig is excited about being a part of a wave of new and returning drivers joining the class to hopefully get back to 16-car fields.
“I think the class is starting to gain some traction and I think the participation is going to increase,” Gillig said. “People are wanting to come back over here. In the late ‘90s and even the mid-2000s, we had great car counts. Obviously, racing has changed over the last decade and a half. On paper, there’s a lot of guys that can turn it into a 16-car field and maybe even have some people on the DNQ list. It would be great to see that again. Hopefully that’s how things transpire.”
Gillig plans to have the car ready to make the last two PDRA races of the season, DragWars at GALOT Motorsports Park and the Brian Olson Memorial World Finals at Virginia Motorsports Park, both in October. The team will use those two races to get acquainted with the car and prepare it for a full campaign in 2022.
“Next season, we’re going to hit it hard,” Gillig said. “We’re going to hit every event and race the schedule, race for points and see what happens. We’ll try to put it in the winner’s circle. That’s the long-term goal for next season.”
The new car isn’t the only new change in Gillig’s life. The family recently sold their restaurant, and Gillig is set to go to work at Flatout Gaskets in August. He’d been friends with Mark Adelizzi, the late founder of Flatout, for many years before Adelizzi’s passing in March 2020, and the two had talked about working together. Gillig met with Mark’s brother and heir to his estate, Gary, and the two worked out a plan for Gillig to go to work at Flatout to run the business along with the employees who’ve kept it running smoothly since Adelizzi’s passing.
“I’m looking forward to working in the industry I love so much and that has been such a big part of my whole life,” Gillig said. “Also, it will be nice to have a 9-5 job that won’t tie me down on weekends and nights like I was at the restaurant. That will help with getting away to go to the races to race our own stuff. We’ll use the car as a test bed for product, and I’ll be out there at the races with the racers who use our product.”
It all adds up to a win-win scenario for Gillig.
“A lot is going on right now and it’s all positive,” Gillig said. “Looking forward to all of it, changing careers and getting behind the wheel of a Pro Stock car again. Can’t wait.”