Thirteen-year-old Randy Williamson never missed a chance to hitchhike to his local dirt track every Saturday night.
He went to watch. He went to help. He went because he loved it.
Never did he think that would be the starting line for a more than 30-year career in dirt racing with Bicknell Racing Products – building chassis and wrenching on cars – and a path to the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame.
Williamson, of St. Catharines, ON, along seven other key figures in Northeast dirt racing, are part of the 2023 Hall of Fame induction – set to be honored Thursday night.
“I’m very thankful to be acknowledged by the group there at the Hall of Fame,” Williamson said. “Very thankful. It doesn’t go unnoticed for sure. I’m very privileged to get into there too. I’ve been fortunate throughout my years to be involved with a lot of great owners and a lot of great race cars and, naturally, a lot of great drivers. I think back being able to work with probably the best of the best of race car drivers.
“Fortunately for us, our business has gotten good in the last five years, seven years. So, yeah, it’s good. But it is a lot of work on the other side of the phone or at the racetrack, talking with customers. But that’s still what I love to do and what I still admire, seeing people at the racetrack.”
Through his adventures of hitchhiking to the racetrack every weekend, Williamson met racer Pete Bicknell – an eventual Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Famer himself. Their relationship started with Bicknell giving the young enthusiast a ride home and grew into creating one of the most successful businesses in dirt motorsports.
Williamson hung around Bicknell’s garage, helping paint bumpers and sweep the floor. With each year he learned a new trait, how to work on engines and how to build roll cages. Eventually they started building their own cars out of Bicknell’s shop. At first, they were just for Bicknell. But one person bought a car. Then, two people bought a car. Then, three, and a business started to take shape.
In 1988 Bicknell Racing Products was born with Williamson as a partner in the business.
“We built parts and cars and stuff like that,” he said. “I took over the chassis end of it, building the cars and designing the cars, the [research and development] – as far as try this, try that. Working with Alan Johnson one time… one thing with Alan Johnson was he was never afraid to try major changes. We tried some changes that were bad, and we tried some changes that were good.
“Things really changed for us working with Jamie Mills and Walt Breeding. In 2015-16 we came up with a different design car that Jamie Mills had debuted down in Delaware. That was that left side Panhard Bar (designed car) that is out now adays. Some people like that car, some people don’t like that car. It made our business a lot better. And my partner Bob Slack, now adays, he has things very good, production-wise. We have two robotic welders; we have two laser machines for cutting tubing. Everything is all pre-done pre-notched, pre-rigged. It’s like putting together a 10-piece puzzle. We’re, on average, producing 10 to 12 cars a week. We’re building 375 cars a year the last few years. It’s been good.”
Through the business, Williamson has worked with a plethora of dirt Modified and Super DIRTcar Series stars; some already in the Hall of Fame and others on their way.
“We started our business in ’88 and got set up with Dougy Hoffman in ’89,” Williamson said. “I still have a great relationship with other racers like Donny Scarborough, Mitch Gibson, customers that came in during the early years with us. Back then, with Randy Glenski, all taking chances in the mid-80s, late-80s, taking chances on a new company there. As we moved along, working with people like Alan Johnson, Danny Johnson, Bob McCreadie and people like that. Bob came in late in his career but he did win his last race in a [Bicknell Racing Product] car which was good for us.”
Williamson worked on Bicknell’s car up until 2007 before transitioning to helping build his son, Mat Williamson’s, racing career.
They started off fielding their family #6 car in the Small Block Modified and Big Block Modified ranks before Mat’s talent started catching the eyes of others and landed him with the Buzz Chew Racing team, leading to the 2019 Super DIRTcar Series championship and two Super DIRT Week Billy Whittaker Cars 200 wins.
“One thing I’ll tell you is he has a drive I’ve seen a lot of great other drivers have,” Randy Williamson said about his son. “Races are won and lost in the garage at home. Naturally, you have to be a good race car to get that done. He’s been very fortunate and surrounded himself with great teams.”
For Mat, to see his dad get inducted into the Hall of Fame, it’s an honor that couldn’t come soon enough.
“I’m happy for him,” Mat Williamson said. “Very happy for him. There’s a lot of people in there who are very deserving, and he is more than deserving of it. It’s cool. It’s probably overdue. He should probably have his picture on the wall with how influential he’s been with Northeast dirt Modified racing. It’s a cool honor.”
The father-son duo still run their #6 Small Block Modified – currently leading the DIRTcar 358 Modified Series points – but Randy Williamson said he’s learning as much from Mat now as his son first did from him.
“He was on a spring smasher before I was on a spring smasher,” Randy Williamson said. “When it came to consulting with customers, I didn’t have time to get on the spring smasher because I was on the phone all day. So, I would bounce off of him of what I should do for static loads and stuff like that. He’s been very helpful for me to where the spring cars are more successful every day.”
Relationships like that, like the one he has with his business partner Bob Slack, who has taken over more of the shop work, like the ones he’s had with the roster of drivers he’s worked with, and like the one he formed with Bicknell are the key reasons for the success he’s garnered, he said. And, to him, it’s why he’s been able to build a Hall of Fame worthy career.
“If you don’t surround yourself with good people, you’re never going to be successful yourself,” Randy Williamson said. “My wife has put up with me still going to the racetrack a lot. I still travel to all the tracks in the Northeast and Charlotte and Florida. I’m not home very much. Naturally her and my son and my daughter –I have two grandkids now… I try to take more time off now than I have before for the family.
“Naturally, anybody in racing knows it takes a lot of effort in the garage. It’s not just a Friday and Saturday night deal. I’m very thankful to be acknowledged in the Hall of Fame for sure. But, again, those people I’ve had, whether it is race car drivers or owners, you know, my employees at the shop, it wouldn’t be as successful as it was.”
The 31st annual Northeast Dirt Modified induction ceremony will take place at the Northeast Dirt Modified Museum and Hall of Fame (in front of Weedsport Speedway) on Thursday, July 13 at 7 p.m. Joining Williamson as a 2023 inductee are Tim Fuller, Bob Cameron, Danny O’Brien, Glenn Hyneman, Paul Kuhl, Patrick Donnelly and Laurie Fallis.