Tim Fuller, Danny O’Brien & Bob Cameron To Be Inducted Into Northeast Dirt Modified Hall Of Fame
Story By: BUFFY SWANSON / NORTHEAST DIRT MODIFIED HALL OF FAME – WEEDSPORT, NY – Three-time Mr. DIRT series titlist Tim Fuller, second-generation Canadian champion Danny O’Brien and Bob Cameron, the post-war pioneer driver out of Western New York, will officially be inducted into the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame in July.
These three racing legends add their names to a stellar list of Modified standouts that was started in 1992 when the Hall of Fame was established on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, NY.
The 31st annual induction ceremonies honoring the Class of 2023 will take place Thursday, July 13 at 7 pm in the Northeast Dirt Modified Museum and Hall of Fame, on the grounds of the state-of-the-art Weedsport Speedway. The event is free and open to the public, and will feature pre- and post-program festivities sponsored by the track. The following Sunday, Weedsport Speedway will present its Super DIRTcar Series Hall of Fame 100 for the big-block Modifieds.
The middle son of a North Country racing family, Tim Fuller learned the game at two tracks that couldn’t have been more different: Can-Am, one of the biggest, fastest joints in the region, and the tighter, more technical Evans Mills. That’s where the Watertown, New Yorker acquired the skills to get the job done. He put in two years in Pure Stocks prior to building a Sportsman car in 1990, then moving up to 358s the following season. Fielding his own equipment, despite racing on a shoestring, Fuller became a victory-lane steady at Brewerton, Cornwall, Weedsport, Frogtown, Fulton and Brockville, in addition to Can-Am and Evans Mills, taking titles at Evans Mills in 1992 and ’93 and the 1993 Mr. DIRT 358 Series championship. Tim’s big break came at the tail end of 1999, when Bob Faust tapped him to drive his well-funded M1 Modified. It took a couple of seasons, adjusting to the newness of chassis changes and owner-driver dynamics, before they hit their stride. By 2002, the win records were solidly in the double digits—and it was all uphill from there. Together, Fuller and Faust were good for 61 victories, including a Rolling Wheels 200, back-to-back Fulton 200s, DIRT Series races in NY, NJ, PA and Canada, and the ’04 Syracuse big-block classic. Wins brought titles: the 2003 Mr. DIRT 358 Series and ’05 Mr. DIRT overall Modified crowns, the ’04 Empire DIRT Series championship, four titles at Fulton and two at Weedsport. Yet by 2006, they were headed in different directions—Faust to retirement and Fuller to the Late Model world. Tim did a solid seven-year stint on the national LM tour until lack of funding finally brought him home. In 2015, the prodigal son returned to his Modified roots, picking up where he left off to claim a second Super DIRT Week small-block score, three titles at Mohawk and a pair at Can-Am, where it all started. An accomplished traveler, Fuller’s career record currently stands at 260 wins at an impressive 45 tracks in 14 states, two Canadian provinces and Australia.
It’s in the family bloodlines: father Pat raced before brother Pat picked up the reins. Now, Canadian Danny O’Brien will follow his older sibling into the Hall of Fame. The middle O’Brien son had been helping out on his brother Pat’s team when he decided to take the wheel himself, making his debut in the headlining 358 Mod class in 1987. “The Pocket Rocket,” as he’s called, went out and won three times in his rookie year—once at Brockville and two in a row at Cornwall. By the early ’90s, Danny was full in, racing Edelweiss on Thursday nights, Brockville Friday, Can-Am on Saturdays and Cornwall on Sundays—all while holding down a full-time job at the family business, Pat’s Radiator. More aggressive than his even-keeled brother Pat, O’Brien willed himself into the winner’s circle. Currently credited with 225 career wins at 11 tracks in two countries, Danny was the 1994 DIRT big-block champion at Cornwall, where he also won four 358 titles; a four-timer in Brockville’s Ogilvie’s 358 Modified Triple Crown Series; a two-time winner of both the Doiron Engineering Cup at Cornwall and Mohawk’s Memorial Cup Series; and the 2005 Lucas Oil Canadian Dirt Series champ. At Brockville, he’s been close to unbeatable, banking 14 track titles and 99 victories, the all-time record. But much of that almost never happened. At Can-Am on Labor Day weekend in 1996, Danny was involved in a freak and heart-stopping wreck that ripped the cage right off his car and sent his helmet flying down the track. O’Brien is made of tough stuff: he miraculously survived the accident and subsequent surgeries to save his eyesight and reconstruct his face. The following April, he was back in the driver’s seat; within a month, he was back in the winner’s circle. Calling it quits at the end of 2018, O’Brien was coaxed to come back in late August of 2021, to sub for Dalton Slack. Fresh out of retirement, he won the Applefest Shootout at Brighton Speedway. This year, running a limited schedule with Steve Polite, Danny is hell-bent to put one more feather in his cap: his 100th win at Brockville.
Post-war era wunderkind Bob Cameron of Kenmore, NY, was a pioneer in the formative years of the sport in more ways than one. As a driver, Cameron was nothing short of spectacular at Buffalo’s Civic Stadium where SRO crowds topping 20,000 went wild as he willfully racked ’em up—21 checkereds in 24 starts, one season, always starting far back in the field and bulling his way through wreck-infested features. That hard-nosed command wasn’t confined to Buffalo: racing under his own name, Bobby Mack or Bob Carran, Cameron won on the dirt at county fairgrounds in Monroe, Chautauqua, Livingston, Cortland, Genesee, Vernon, Afton, Naples and Jamestown; on both dirt and asphalt at Brewerton; and on the blacktop at Spencer and Oswego. He wrapped up the 1949 NASCAR New York State championship—his crowning achievement—with a decisive 50-lap rout at Vernon. He won the 1950 track title at Brewerton, and was the inaugural victor at Spencer’s 1955 opener. Even a stint with the U.S. Army didn’t stop him: while stationed in Baltimore in ’51 Bob managed to race four nights a week, winning Westport Stadium’s season championship. As a mover-and-shaker outside the seat, Cameron was in the core group aiming to unionize area NASCAR drivers in the early ’50s, earning promoter Ed Otto’s sworn wrath; in his push to make the sport safer, Bob cut back his schedule in 1956 to become a NASCAR Safety Inspector. Ironically, Cameron lost his life in a horrifying and senseless wreck during warmups at Lancaster Speedway on June 4, 1960. He was just 36 years old.
Also being honored at the July 13 induction ceremonies are Glenn Hyneman, Randy Williamson, Paul Kuhl, Patrick Donnelly and Laurie Fallis.
The 2023 Gene DeWitt Car Owner Award goes to Glenn Hyneman of Mohnton, PA, who has set the standard for professionalism for the past four decades. It started as a sponsorship: Hyneman’s Keystone Pretzel Bakery had billing on buddy Bill Brian’s Modified, driven by Gary Gollub, back in 1977. A successful businessman and a take-charge guy, Hyneman bought a Brightbill-Kreitz car and put together his own team in ’79, with Jeff Kring driving. Kring was in it for two seasons before Barry Von Dohren stepped into the seat, snagging the 1983 Bridgeport Sportsman title—the team’s first championship. It all really started to take off when Barry’s younger brother Craig took the wheel: from 1983-86, CVD toted up 48 wins in Hyneman’s Pretzelmania 126 at six tracks in three states. But Glenn wanted more. He got it with star driver Billy Pauch. In the years they were together—1987 and ’88 exclusively, then part-time in ’89 and ’90—the team took down 44 wins in the big-block Mods, 42 in small-blocks and six Sprint Car victories for a total 92 scores at 14 tracks in five states. And Pauch delivered the big ones: the ’87 320 Nationals at Syracuse; three consecutive Victoria 200s at Fulton; Ransomville’s Summer Nationals; Grandview’s Freedom 76; Hagerstown’s Octoberfest; back-to-back Modified championships at both Flemington and Bridgeport; and another pair of titles at Penn National. Post-Pauch, Hyneman segued onto the Sprint Car scene prior to promoting Susquehanna Speedway from 1993-96. He returned to Modified competition in ’97, first with Dave Calaman, then Duane Howard, who hustled to 50 wins and three Bridgeport championships. Jeff Strunk—in an on-again/off-again hookup that’s now on-again—has brought home another 50 victories to date (including four of Glenn’s half-dozen 76ers), two titles at Big Diamond and two at Grandview. Over a span of 44 years, the Hyneman team has won 261 times, at 23 tracks in seven states, with 11 different drivers.
Randy Williamson, the recipient of this year’s Mechanic/Engineering Award, was a 13-year-old kid, trying to hitch a ride to Merrittville Speedway, 10 miles from his home in St. Catharines, ONT, when he got hooked up with future Hall of Famer Pete Bicknell. At the time, Bicknell was just getting his feet wet, racing a home-built Late Model, and asked Williamson to give him a hand after school. That was in 1973. Fifty years later, they are still together and have created a dynasty. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight: starting in a two-bay garage at Pete’s mother’s house, Bicknell and Williamson began building Modifieds in 1980 and—with Pete winning—the venture slowly gained attention. There were lean years as the two partners financed machinery and equipment, establishing Bicknell Racing Products, hoping their investment would pay off. The tipping point came in 1989, when longtime Olsen house driver Doug Hoffman showed up in Florida with a Bicknell car. Hoffman won his second night out, boosting BRP’s profile. And after years of R&D perfecting a mid-rail design, and the introduction of a tall-cage car to first accommodate “big boy” Rex King Sr., they hit the jackpot: in 2003, BRP turned out 237 cars. Today, everyone and their brother is driving a Bicknell—in just the past two years, 2021 and 2022, they’ve produced and sold a market blitz of 749 Modifieds. Success breeds success: aside from BRP’s cutting-edge equipment and computerized production systems, the company has one secret weapon—the BRP setup book, which is open to every customer. It is Williamson who is on the phone an average eight hours each day, sharing his notes and processing feedback from drivers, to keep everybody dialed in. Randy’s rule is simple: no phone call to BRP will go unanswered.
The late Paul Kuhl, the flamboyant promoter who made New Jersey’s Flemington Fair Speedway the place to be, will receive the prestigious Leonard J. Sammons Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to Auto Racing. The entire Kuhl family had long-served on the fair board when Paul stepped forward in the winter of 1970-71 to take over operation of the track. At that point, the speedway was adrift—suffering under the weight of major facility improvements, casual promotional efforts and a sparse, sporadic schedule. With his flair for the dramatic, Kuhl injected excitement into the track’s tired bones by creating new events, raising purses to attract new drivers, and launching a publicity campaign that splashed onto the front pages of trade papers and dailies, alike. The timing, however, was inopportune: just as Kuhl was attempting to resuscitate Flemington, drivers were organizing to take matters into their own hands. On his very first night as promoter, Paul had to face down a picket line of renegades from the Tri-State Drivers & Owners Association, daring fans and racers to cross their path. He persevered and stepped up the track’s profile, creating the Flemington 200, signing on to the fledgling Super DIRT Series, and reintroducing URC Sprints and ARDC Midgets to the schedule. Over the next two decades, Flemington brought in World of Outlaw Sprint Cars, USAC Silver Crown cars, open-competition Midgets, and featured one of the stoutest fields of Modifieds in the Northeast. Kuhl’s brash decision to pave the speedway at the end of 1990 created a completely different brand of racing, highlighted by ISMA, ARCA and NASCAR Truck appearances. By the time the track closed, in 2000, Kuhl had been at the helm for 29 seasons. He was a five-time Eastern Region Promoter of the Year and took national honors in 1991. Paul received the American Racing Legends Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.
DIRT TV director and cameraman Patrick Donnelly, Weedsport, NY, will receive the Andrew S. Fusco Award for Media Excellence, in memory of Hall of Fame board member and legal counsel Andy Fusco. When his father, DIRT Motorsports president Glenn Donnelly, recognized in the late ’70s that live television was racing’s future, teenage Patrick was onboard for the ride into the emerging medium. After graduating from high school, he attended broadcast tech school, learning the essentials from instructor Tery Rumsey, a former Syracuse-area TV producer who would join the DIRT TV team in 1987. With Rumsey aggressively producing, the young Donnelly manning cameras, directing and editing, and on-air talent like local sportscaster Doug Logan and DIRT’s own Andy Fusco, the magazine-style cable show “This Week on DIRT” became a hit, bringing grassroots racing into households across the country. The DIRT organization invested in top-line camera and sound equipment, editing suites and remote trucks, and Donnelly and crew became proficient on the fly, learning and perfecting as they went. Programming was expanded to feature not only curated footage but live broadcasts—“Rush Hour on DIRT” on Thursdays, the Empire DIRT Series, Super DIRT Week in its entirety, which entailed weeks of preparation, 10-12 cameras and a crew of 50 working under Donnelly’s direction. And it didn’t stop at racing: rock concerts, hydroplane and snowmobile meets, monster truck events and more were also filmed, edited, dubs were made and sent into syndication. In 2006, Patrick created his own production house, Emergency Media Inc., focused on hunting and fishing shows for the Outdoor, Pursuit and Sportsman channels. Donnelly also produced segments for the NASCAR Racing Experience, owned by his brother, Bobby Lutz, and currently directs weekly events at Oswego Speedway for FloRacing.
Gloversville, NY’s Laurie Fallis, former racer, writer and promoter of the Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series, will be honored with this year’s Outstanding Woman in Racing Award. Laurie was a racing newbie when she met Fonda Speedway Sportsman driver Drew Fallis in the early 1980s—but she immediately fell in love with the sport as well as the man. She learned by doing: down in the trenches, turning wrenches alongside her husband and taking care of business, even as she raised two sons and penned a column, “The Sportsman Voyage,” for Fonda’s weekly event program. But Laurie wanted to experience the thrill herself, not second-hand. Starting in 2000, Fallis suited up and climbed behind the wheel, racing to a combined nine wins at Fonda in the Powder Puff division against other women, and then driving an Enduro car against the men. She put together a four-cylinder Cruiser in 2004, competing at Glen Ridge, where she claimed 15 wins, the ’07 title and was second in points in ’09 and ’10. Farther from home, she made her presence known at Five Mile Point, winning 13 times and the 2010 ALOTO championship. The opportunity to write a regular column for Race Pro Weekly was offered in 2017 and Laurie assumed the byline, profiling the “little guys” she knew so well and weekly exclusives from Albany-Saratoga and Glen Ridge. When the promoter of the Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series decided to step down in 2018, Fallis took on the job, managing promotions, sponsorships, race-day activities, tech inspection and more for the group. Under Laurie’s dynamic leadership and direction, the series grew from eight cars to more than 40, has now expanded into three states, added new tracks, increased its presence on social media, and is recognized as the premier vintage dirt car organization in the Northeast.