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Cambodian Ricky Huot calls Riverhead Raceway home away from home

A flagman waves the green flag at Riverhead

A flagman waves the green flag at Riverhead Raceway. (July 16, 2011) Credit: Daniel Brennan

Like many during this Fourth of July weekend, Ricky Huot, an administrative assistant to the owners of Riverhead Raceway, Barbara and Jim Cromarty, will be spending time with his wife and kids.

There are members of his family he won't be seeing, however. His mother, father, brother, sister and other relatives are still in Cambodia, a country Huot fled with his uncle, during its time of war with Vietnam, in hopes of finding a better way of life.

When the Cambodian-Vietnamese War began in 1975, Huot was only 6, yet at 43 he can still recall what it was like waking up and seeing horrific images daily.

"There was always shooting and people being killed in the street," Huot said. "People were dying right in the street. It was crazy."

When Vietnam fully invaded Cambodia by 1979, and when the attacks worsened, Huot made the decision to sacrifice schooling, eating regularly and ever seeing his family again to escape to a refugee camp in Thailand with his uncle in hopes of making it to the United States.

"There was constant fear at that time. It was really bad and I didn't really know what was happening," Huot said. "We finally took a train and found America."

In 1983, Huot and his uncle finally made it to the United States and they lived in the Bronx until 1995. It was during that time while working as a driver for a limousine company that he met the Cromartys.

Huot, who now lives in Queens, said he didn't know the Cromartys owned Riverhead Raceway when he first met them. He came to the realization after discussing his admiration for racing, especially the modified division.

Huot can be found on Saturday nights at the track helping wherever he is needed, usually working with ticket sales and later driving the Cromartys back home.

The last time Huot visited the rest of his family in Cambodia was in 1999. It's the sacrifice he made to have a more fulfilling life, which he said he "can't look back on and regret."

With his wife and three kids, Huot celebrated Independence Day at home and will spend a portion of the holiday weekend at Riverhead. It's a time symbolized with significant meaning for him.

"I am very proud to be here in America," Huot said. "In America things are different than what I saw in Cambodia. Here, if you work hard, and do the right thing, you are in position for good things to happen. I would have never, ever thought my life would be like this. In America, here, I don't worry."

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