After 35 years in the pizza business, PDRA Extreme Pro Stock star Tony Gillig has made a major career change. He’s the new Operations Manager at Flatout Gaskets, which was recently acquired by Gillig’s longtime friend and fellow Chicagoland racer, Jeff D’Agostino. Flatout’s founder, Mark Adelizzi, passed away in March of 2020, and the family sold the company to D’Agostino so it could continue in the hands of racers.
“I’d known Mark for years, and I was in real early talks with Mark about joining Flatout before his passing,” Gillig said. “I reached out to his brother and asked who received the company in Mark’s estate and asked if he would be willing to sell the company or what he wanted to do with it. He wanted to sell it, and I reached out to a good friend of mine, Jeff D’Agostino, who I know from the area from the pizza business and the race car business. He’s an engine builder, owned FastTimes Motorworks for years, and he wanted to get involved. Actually, Jeff acquired the company and put me in place to run the day-to-day stuff and work on new business.”
Other than Gillig coming in, there will be very few personnel changes at Flatout Gaskets. The workforce looks much like it did when Adelizzi was at the helm.
“The people that were there working for Mark all those years kept going to work every day,” Gillig said. “They’re excellent people. Mark’s brother kept it going as long as he owned it and chimed in here and there, but the employees that were there kept the company moving and going forward in Mark’s absence, and they did an excellent job. There are great people there now, and we just want to continue what’s going on and try to build on that and build a bigger customer base and build new projects and do certain things with the equipment that’s there.”
Gillig, who started working at his family’s pizza shop when he was 14 in 1984, has nearly four decades of business experience paired with a deep background in the racing industry. He’ll borrow from both backgrounds in his new role at Flatout. It’s a big change from slinging pizzas, but Gillig believes a lot of the principles are the same.
“Business is business,” Gillig said. “It’s a matter of generating revenue, making more money than you spend, making sure your employees work together well, and you have a good relationship with them. It’s all the basics of any business, it’s just changing what you’re selling or what you’re doing. There is a little learning curve there for me, but it’s been a great transition so far.
“I’ve gone back in the shop and worked on a punch press for a little while and learned that,” Gillig continued. “I have to learn some AutoCAD stuff. As far as the equipment goes, there’s stuff for me to learn back there. I think just my knowledge of the automotive world helps me.”
While Flatout Gaskets can and will produce bulk quantities of gaskets, they’ve also specialized in catering to racers and engine builders who need very specific and at times hard-to-find products. The company has a Mom-and-Pop shop feel that Gillig appreciates, and he plans to continue offering that one-off, one-on-one service that made Adelizzi and Flatout so popular with customers.
“Anytime somebody needed something, Mark would make it happen,” Gillig said. “We’re going to do the same thing. Somebody walks in with a one-off gasket, ‘I need some of these and nobody makes them, it’s for a vintage car I’m restoring and General Motors stopped making this gasket.’ Bring it here and we’ll make it and you’re good to go, don’t sweat it. My dad has a ’94 ZR1 Corvette he plays with and GM stopped making all the stuff for the ZR1 Corvettes back then with the overhead cam motor that came out between ’90-95. Several years ago, Mark reproduced the gaskets that they needed for these ZR1 Corvettes. Projects like that are huge and I think that can be a big part of our business.”
Gillig admits he’s in for a challenge, and he has big shoes to fill, both literally and figuratively. Adelizzi started Flatout in 1998 after 20 years at Fel-Pro Gaskets, and he built the company into a sizeable operation that produced gaskets for some of the biggest names in racing. Gillig plans to continue Adelizzi’s mission.
“I want to keep Mark’s legacy alive,” Gillig said. “He was a great guy and did a lot of things for a lot of people over the years with Flatout. Hopefully we can make Mark proud. He put his heart and soul into this company. I didn’t want to see it die off or get gobbled up or something. I think this works well for everybody involved.
“Hopefully we can move the needle a little further and make things a little bigger and better,” Gillig added. “I’m not going to say Mark didn’t do that. But Mark was diagnosed with cancer around 12 years prior to his passing, so it was a long battle with cancer and he did great with it. Unfortunately, cancer took his life, but he battled that while keeping the company going. He worked his butt off. Hopefully with us doing the same we can keep things moving in the right direction.”