The Alex Cilli Spirit of Dedication Award

2019 - Jeff Yatsko

By Tony “Mario” Crea

Alex Cilli was a quiet, but very special individual. He drove an Autodynamics Formula Vee that was built during a time when all men had “Dad Bods”, so I fit in it just fine, thanks for asking! What made Alex special was that he always remembered the details of what people told him during conversations in the paddock... You got married? He’d ask how married life was treating you each time he saw you, even if it was just two times a year. You got a new job? He’d ask how things were going and if you got the corner office yet. If you answered, “No”, Alex would ask, “Well, why not?”

Indeed, Alex was akin to the former 60 Minutes presenter, Charles Kuralt, who endeared himself to many around the nation simply because he listened. Furthermore, Alex always made sure to personally thank the core staff at the end of each and every event because he knew that quality events don’t just happen because someone showed up with some cones and a timing system. One of the many ways Alex would show his appreciation was during cleanup, a time of the day when competitors typically scatter like cockroaches in sunlight. By virtue of owning that Formula Vee, Alex had a trailer; so, he’d drive around the lot, picking up the stacks of cones workers would make at the end of timed runs. This now commonplace practice was a huge help to the region when we started growing our events into what they are today.

A lot of people miss Alex, I know I still do. As a matter of fact, I began using number 158 since his passing so that I could still incorporate the number 8, which I used from the beginning, and the number 15, which was Alex’s number.

Now, this reminiscence has a purpose and it can be summarized in just three words...
“Not a problem!”

If you’ve never heard these words spoken at an NNJR autocross, then you’ve probably never attended an NNJR autocross! While we all know that no autocross would be possible without everyone helping at some point during the course of the day, it takes a special, albeit moronic, group of individuals willing to be core workers each season. Within the NNJR’s core group, however, there exists an individual whose can-do attitude is a reassuring beacon of reliability that the event will go off without a hitch. Here are some examples:

Carburetor in the generator is gummed up? Not a problem!
Pit bike has a flat tire? Not a problem!
PA system has a nasty reverberation? Not a problem!
Gout’s acting up? Not a problem!
And this all takes place by 7:30 am!

In case you haven’t guessed by now, Jeff Yatsko is about to be presented with a special award that embodies his tireless dedication to our autocross program each year. Whether it be off-season maintenance and improvements to the truck, arranging for our competition license to be completed and registered with the State Police, or picking up cases of water for corner workers - along with lots of other things in-between - Jeff is the guy we typically turn to.

The region owes a huge debt of gratitude to Jeff and I know that, wherever he may be, Alex would agree wholeheartedly. So, without further ado, Jeff Yatsko, come accept...
The Alex Cilli Spirit of Dedication Award!