WEEDSPORT - There was a sea of orange Sunday afternoon at the Cayuga County fairgrounds as fans turned out to honor the induction of Jumpin' Jack Johnson into the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Johnson, Fonda Speedway's 11-time modified track champion, was among eight drivers and people who have made major contributions to the sport of auto racing.
Entering the hall with Johnson were drivers Ovide Doiron and Pete Bicknell as well as Alton and Carole Palmer, Cheryl Kirkland, Billy Colton and Dianne Tobias for their contributions to the sport of dirt track racing. Also honored at the ceremonies were announcer Shane Andrews and Hall of Fame curator, racing historian and pioneer Jack Speno.
The plaque honoring Fonda Speedway champion Jumpin’ Jack Johnson who was inducted in the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame Sunday in Weedsport. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Jack Johnson did not make the trip to Weedsport to accept the honor due to health problems, but was represented by his son and reigning Fonda Speedway track champion Ronnie Johnson and several members of his family and crew.
Following an emotional speech by Fonda Speedway promoter Ric Lucia, fans in attendance viewed a video of a pre-recorded interview Johnson did with Andrews special for the ceremony, after which Jumpin Jack's backlit plaque was unveiled on the wall with the Hall of Fame drivers.
The Palmers followed Johnson into the hall as recipients of the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame Gene DeWitt Outstanding Car Owner Award, which honors another car-owner Johnson carried the banner for with the B.R. DeWitt 12A.
"This award is beyond our wildest dreams-I didn't think it would ever happen to us," Carole Palmer said. "We have sponsored excellent drivers over the years and just can't believe this is happening to us."
Doiron is a 25-time track champion with more than 300 features wins to his credit. He is also known as a potent engine builder.
Bicknell, also known as "Mr. Smallblock," has also made his mark on racing as a chassis builder and racetrack owner and promoter.
Bicknell joked as he approached the podium, saying "They may hope I will retire now. I am not. I've still got a lot of racing left to do."
The Mechanic of the Year Award was presented to veteran chassis designer and crewman Bill Colton of Troyer Race Cars.