Rt 5 Vernon, NY
By Ed & Betty Biittig
When the New York State Stock Car Association goes to Utica Rome Speedway on August 12th for their annual Safety Award Night they will also honor four racing pioneers with induction into their prestigious Hall of Fame.
Engine builder, Milt Johnson; driver/owner, Tom Williams, Sr.; driver, promoter and track official, Dick Sweet and safety official Don ďHadĒ Hadcock will be inducted in a ceremony at 4:00 p.m. at the gazebo in the Utica Rome concession area.
Tom Williams, Sr. began his racing career before he had a driverís license. With the help of friends he managed to get his car to local tracks around his home in Deansboro, NY. Money was scarce in the early days, so when Tom won a heat, paying $2 and the feature, paying $5 in the same night, he was on cloud nine.
Tom and his wife Lynda had five sons which gave Tom, Sr. the opportunity to attend races to entertain the boys and one night at Brewerton, his son Jeff picked up a set of rules for the Pure Stock Class and the race was on once again. With Jeff as the driver the Williamís family was on the road racing with Tom, Sr. providing money, advice and the Suburban for hauling to events. By 1979 the Williams team was racing at three tracks with two drivers; in the Late Model division with young Tommy behind the wheel claiming titles at Utica Roma and Albany Saratoga; Jeff was in the Pure Stock division at Brookfield where he was track champion that year. That same year Tom, Sr. was named car owner of the year by NYSSCA.
When young Tommy married the racing came to a halt until his son Casey traded a motorbike for a Modified and as before the race was on again and now Grandfather, Tom, Sr. is back in the game and loving every minute of it.
Milt Johnson began his racing career behind the wheel at Monroe County and Canandaigua in the late 1950s and early 1960s where he ran steady and recorded many top ten's and top five's and several wins. He also has the distinction of winning the 1961 Canandaigua point title without ever winning a feature at the track that year.
Along with his partner, Bruce Fleischman, Milt built engines for Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Ed Ortiz, Merv Treichler and many, many others giving his engines prominence among the top drivers. Under the famous B&M Speed Shop logo, Johnson and Fleishman successfully built engines that won hundreds of races on both dirt and asphalt. The Speed Shop was also where Miltís sons Danny and Alan launched their careers as dirt tracks premier drivers. Milt still actively watches his sonís careers today, sitting on the sidelines enjoying the action on the track wherever the two compete. He is very dedicated to both Alan and Danny and proud of their accomplishments.
Dick Sweet was bitten by the racing bug in second grade, when he and couple of his friends would pretend they were race cars and race in a circle around the swings and an old oak tree. As his interest in racing grew he begged his parents to take him to the races at the track near his home, Midstate Speedway in Morris, NY. From here the urge hit him to race and in the summer of 1969 Dick took his first laps in the 1957 Chevy. Dick bought and sold several cars after that first season and during the off times when he didnít have a car he still wanted to be involved so he started announcing some motocross races also some races for the Midstate Antiques. Dick continued his involvement in racing by announcing, flagging and even a short stint of racing snowmobiles for Polaris.
An ad that he answered in the Gater Racing News for a flagman at Fulton launched his career as a flagger. Dick flagged at several area tracks and traveled with the ESS Sprints but he still wanted something more. He became race director and flagger at Afton and in the fall realized his first successful promotional endeavor with the Spooktackular.
In 2003 Dick picked up and moved to Florida where he bought a house, but the call of racing was still not dead. When he saw an ad for track manager at Utica Rome, he thought that might be something for him so he threw his name out there and got the job. Dick moved back to NY and became GM at the Vernon, NY oval where he stayed until 2007 when he finally hung up all his racing hats to return to his home in Florida where he lives today.
Don ďHadĒ Hadcock began his long standing position as safety truck operator in 1984 at Fulton Speedway. He was attending the races at Fulton and saw the push trucks on the track and became interested so he returned the following week with boards mounted on the front of his truck. He spoke with Victoria Benway about working at the track and her first response was she didnít need anymore. As he was walking away she asked if he could be there every week and thatís where it all began for ďHadĒ a nearly 30 year commitment to help at several area tracks. Throughout those 30 years Hadís wife has been with him at most events until recently when a back problem has made it necessary for her to stay home.
Had loves his position at area tracks and says itís like one big family. He turns 81 years young in September and says as long as he feels well he plans to continue at the two tracks he currently serves, CanAm and Utica Rome. Sometimes having to serve as a diplomat, ambassador, mediator and friend, Had is one of the many unsung heroes of our sport; one who makes a good racing program, great.
NYSSCA Night August 12th at Utica Rome is sponsored by former track owner/promoter, Dick Waterman and will include a regular show of racing. Racing begins at 6:00 p.m.
NYSSCA to Induct Four Hall of Fame Members At Utica Rome Speedway