St. Mary’s Freshman Races Sprint Cars
Vito Celli is winning on the track
By Ava Gilliland
Published: December 4, 2023
He’s only a freshman at Saint Mary’s High School but already Vito Celli is in the driver’s seat. Vito has been racing sprint cars for two years at Delta Speedway and other regional race tracks. He grew up in a racing environment, and his mom, “It’s something that his Dad Gino and Uncle Nathan Mussi did 15 years ago and he grew up at the track. It was never a question if he would race, just when,” said his mom, Mrs. Nanette Mussi Celli. “I was pregnant with him when they raced, so he has heard those motors from day one.”
Vito loves racing sprint cars. It’s an expensive sport but sponsors help support him. “It's very worth it. It takes a lot of skill. You have to be experienced to do good. You can win a lot of money,” he said. Sprint cars aren’t like the race cars you see on NASCAR or Formula 1. Sprint cars race on a dirt track, where Vito says the cars “slide a lot more and it's more risky compared to asphalt because you don't really move a lot.” To help with racing on dirt, Vito explains that “the cars have a wing on them and you go in a circle and the wing helps you stay down on the ground so you can go faster.” So far, Vito has won about $3,000 by winning two races.
During the off-season, Vito has a lot of work to get done before he can step on the track. “Each year, the car is stripped down to the frame and each piece is checked and if it is broken it is either repaired or replaced. Along with the car being stripped down, the motor is usually rebuilt during the off season. During the off-season, Vito also goes around to local businesses and asks for sponsorships to support his racing through the year. Once the car is ready to be put back together, it is decaled with his sponsors, name and number,” his mom said. During racing season, race days also require a lot of preparation, but they are fun filled days for Vito and his family. “On a typical race day, we will load the Race Car, and the cart which carries parts for the car repairs. We load up an ice chest for drinks, sweatshirts in case it gets cold. And we’re at the track usually around 2 o’clock,” Mrs. Celli said.
Mrs. Ester Bruno, a teacher here at Saint Mary’s, has also been to Vito’s races with her son, Tino Bruno. “Delta Speedway is such a fun, carefree environment where kids are running around in the dirt chasing fast cars and dust clouds,” she reflects. Mrs. Bruno and Tino enjoyed watching Vito race. “The loud noise of the cars going around the track and the excitement and danger of the sport make it exciting. It allows young drivers to do something dangerous, carefully,” she said. “I don't exactly remember Vito’s results but I do know he was one of the top three winners as he was one of the racers on the podium.” Mrs. Celli also loves to watch Vito race: “I look forward to every race. Every race I am at the track and videoing each time he goes out onto the dirt. My absolute favorite part of Vito racing is the smile that kid has on his face when he gets in that car. It's such a great sport for all ages, and I’d say the second favorite part is having family and friends come watch and support him. I would say my least favorite is when he has mechanical problems on his car, and it has nothing to do with the way he drove. But that’s part of racing.”
Vito hopes to continue his racing sprint cars by making a career out of it and he has a lot of support from family, teachers and friends. Mrs. Bruno affirms, “I hope to see him on a major race track some day. Vito is a respectable young man. I know Vito grew up around race tracks, and if his politeness and well mannered being stems from the track, then I'd say yes to anyone who wants to get into racing.”You can watch Vito race next spring at Delta Speedway in Stockton. Sprint car racing is a great way to make new friends and it is an opportunity to win some money. So, if you are interested in doing an exciting extracurricular outside of school, Vito encourages you to give racing a try.