NASCAR appoints Niagara resident to oversee operations in Canada

NASCAR Canada has created a new position to oversee all operations north of the border including competition and marketing.

But the first general manager of the US-based motorsports company in Canada is not a newcomer to motorsports.

Tony Spitteri, who was born in Oshawa but grew up in Port Colborne, has been drawn to racing for as long as possible.

“It was a lot of fun for us growing up that my parents and uncles would take us to Humberstone Speedway and watch the dirt cars,” said the 54-year-old, who now lives in Welland.

Spiteri was “lucky enough” to live three doors down Al Moore, who raced the Limited Sportsman class on the dirt track on Interstate 3 east of Port Colborne.

“In exchange for doing some menial things, like washing the race and things like that, as long as I saved enough money during the week, I could join the crew,” he said.

Spitry was 12 years old when he learned what the sport was like from the pit area, not just from the stands.

“Fortunately, I looked a little older because at the time, you were supposed to be sixteen,” he said with a chuckle. “No one asked, so we went.

“This was the start of the racing side.”

Spitteri was able to see what the sport was like from behind the wheel after moving to British Columbia where he lived for 11 years. In 1999, he raced with the Old-Time Race Association in the Vintage Modified Class.

He remembers his first car being a 1929 Plymouth Coupe. He also competed in a 1928 Ford and the last car they built was a 1937 Chevrolet.

“Very similar to what we saw here in Niagara in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s.”

The Out West Spiteri raced on highways in Victoria and Campbell River, both on Vancouver Island, as well as on tracks at Osoyoos and Vernon in the interior of British Columbia.

“We’ve crossed the line multiple times into the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington State.”

After he returned to Ontario in 2010, his friends hooked him up with a Pro 4 truck, a class that now operates in the Mini Stock division.

“We played with that for three seasons just to get some dirt experience. I had never done that before, it was always asphalt.”

Spiteri, a graduate of Niagara College in Welland in his 34th year of working in the food industry, has been involved in the business side of racing as Marketing Director for Pinty’s Foods.

Pinty’s took over from Canada Tire as NASCAR Canada Racing Sponsor in 2016.

“We have been an emergency sponsor from 2012 onwards. “Benti’s business is built on care,” Spitteri said. “We did market research and found out what the loyal consumer was consuming, not just in the kitchen, but what they were consuming in terms of media.

“And what we quickly discovered is that there is a very significant overlap between sport and delicious food.”

Benti has also been a partner with the National Football League and the National Hockey League, as well as the Canadian Football League at one point and the Grand Slam of Curling.

“I work in food, but I really work in media because I reach out to consumers,” Spitteri said.

A move a little over a year ago from Pinty’s to Freshstone Brands, where Spiteri is president and chief commercial officer, opened the door for offers from NASCAR to oversee its Canadian operations. For the first time since 2001, he was not “in any way, shape, or form” involved in motorsports sponsorship.

“When they asked if I was helping with this series — sort of a chair, so to speak — the timing was right,” said Spiteri, who was named NASCAR Canada’s managing director in August.

It is not a full time job. He will go on to move into his job at Freshstone Brands in Burlington.

“It’s a 13-week schedule so it’s a little tricky during the summer, but the rest of the year is spent dealing with sponsors, dealing with the media, dealing with the technical side.”

NASCAR’s presence in Canada is “truly coast-to-coast”.

“We’re not in BC at this point, we’ve been in the past.”

In Ontario, the series included a stop at Ohsweken Speedway, southeast of Brantford, where two-time Hoosier Stock defending champion Dave Bailey raced at Merrittville Speedway, and Glenn Styres, one of the highlights of the Sprint Car class at Ohsweken, on purpose. – A built car “which is unique in the Canadian series.”

“This year we actually took a road track and short track car and turned it into a dirt car,” he said. “We are the only chain in the NASCAR world that works on all of these.”

Compared to the cars competing in NASCAR Cup races in the US, the Canadian car looks “very similar”. However, they are more affordable. NASCAR Canada Series cars cost between $120,000 and $150,000 for a “fully equipped vehicle.”

In the United States, the cost ranges from $250,000 to $450,000 for newer cars.

Spitteri said cost containment in Canada is in full swing, including engine programs and work on bias attempts.

“Today rides are available on a rental basis for any of our races. You will likely get a ride for the day somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000.” “Most people today are able to get all the care they need.

“Depending on the harm waiver, you can actually walk away from that in a profitable perspective if that’s what you’re doing.”

Spiteri isn’t concerned that all of that gear as NASCAR Canada’s general manager will take the focus away from being an executive in the food industry.

“The two that I like most to me were growing up in Niagara, as you can see in terms of size, food, racing. Food and cars,” he said with a laugh.

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