VERNON, NY& ...
VERNON, NY– Racing legends Sonney Seamon of Vernon Center, Bernie Miller of Canastota, and Jon Button of Chittenango were inducted to the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) Hall of Fame last Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway. The festivities were part of the 40th anniversary celebration for the popular track.
Seamon, who passed away in 1994, was inducted posthumously to the Hall of Fame admist hundreds of family and friends. He has always been involved in racing, beginning his career in the early 1960’s at Utica-Rome Speedway, where he began his involvement with the track by building and welding the original wall on the frontstretch. He first began racing in the Overhead division, and to his credit won the track championship in 1964. He moved right into the Modifieds, and took home Utica-Rome track titles in 1968, 1975, and 1977. At his home track, he was one of the most popular drivers in speedway history and even took home seven feature wins in six different winning seasons. His last victory at Utica-Rome was on June 19, 1977.
Seamon, affectionately know as "The Mayor of Vernon Center" did not just compete at the NASCAR sanctioned Utica-Rome, he raced all over the Northeastern United States. He has feature wins and track championships at Shangra-La (1972, 1976), Fulton (1975), and Spencer (1972). He also raced at Oswego, Lancaster, and even at Martinsville, Virginia. Seamon was popular both on and off the track, and even was a successful race car builder as well. One of his best friends was late NASCAR great Richie Evans of Rome, and the pair was inseparable.
During the afternoon a party was held in Vernon Center, celebrating Seamon’s career. The Seamon family had yellow No. 50 shirts made up in his honor, and John Clark of Bouckville brought a recently restored a car of Sonney’s to the party and the speedway for the festivities. After the induction, Clark took one last lap behind the wheel of the yellow No. 50 in Seamon’s honor as the crowd cheered him on. It is clear that Seamon will remain one of the most popular drivers in speedway history and remembered forever.
Bernie Miller is one of the true pioneer heroes in Central New York auto racing. In his early career during the mid 1950’s, he raced at the now defunct Vernon (now known as Vernon Downs) and Lafayette Speedways. When Vernon Speedway went to horse racing, the Utica-Rome Speedway was built to replace it and Miller moved into racing there in the Sportsman class, where in 1967 he won the divisional championship. At Utica-Rome, Miller had three career feature wins in the Modified division, and he was one of the most well liked drivers in early speedway history. Miller raced all over the Northeast, chasing NASCAR points at tracks such as Utica-Rome, Albany-Saratoga, and Fulton.
Miller’s biggest career victory came in 1971 at Martinsville, Virginia in the Dogwood 500, when he bested some of NASCAR’s greatest drivers of all time. Miller was frequently finishing in the top five in yearly NASCAR points, and he was always one of the most consistent drivers. He retired from racing in 1979, and has followed tractor pulling and even builds racing engines out of his shop in Canastota. Two of Miller’s trademark No. 41 racecars, a Coupe and a Pinto, were on hand for the festivities at the speedway.
Jon Button, nicknamed as "The Chittenango Cheetah", in his early years was a tremendous drag racer, and in 1968 won a circle track title at Utica-Rome in the Mini Stock class. In 1968, he was also the Utica-Rome Dragway track champion. In 1966 and 1967, he held two World Drag Racing Championships, and he is a five time New York State Champion! In 1972, he ended his drag racing career and moved to the dirt tracks with a Big Block Modified. He won one feature at Weedsport, and then in the mid 1980's, he ran the Sportsman division all over the DIRT circuit, and got one win at Canandaigua and had multiple top five finishes. Today, he restores vintage racecars, and even races vintage Hillegass Sprint cars in Zephyrhills Florida every winter, as well as some appearances in Vintage events at Watkins Glen in NY.
In 1980 at Utica-Rome Speedway, Jon was the Modified track champion, and throughout his career at Utica-Rome, he never won a Modified feature. But, today, two of his sons, Mike and Gordy are very popular racers in their own right in Central New York. Jon retired from racing at the end of 1987 and became a tech inspector for DIRT Motorsports. Presently, he is the head tech inspector at Brewerton, Fulton, and Utica-Rome Speedways, and is very involved in the sport through that as well as his many other activities such as displaying his vintage racers, promoting car shows, and promoting racing as a whole. Button’s 1934 Hillegas former Jim Carroll Sprint Car was on hand for the evening’s induction.
The staff and management of the Utica-Rome Speedway would like to congratulate these great legends of our sport on their induction into the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame.