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Pony Express Part VIII – Battling Breakage and Track Records as Randy Seward Continues the Ultimate Road Trip

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Photos by: Randy Seward

 

 

No road trip is complete without encountering a few speed bumps and potholes along the way, and if your plans include driving over 10,000 miles and visiting over three dozen racetracks, the chances of hitting a few hazards increases. For the 8-second ride of Randy Seward, those potholes have included repairing a section of fuel line that caused him to miss a night of racing, as well as overcoming transmission troubles when a worn sprag nearly sidelined his efforts in Illinois. For a well-traveled racer doing an extensive road trip without a support vehicle or a trailer, he’s persevered and continued on. But when we last covered the veteran QA1 True Street participant’s efforts, it was at Mid Michigan Motorplex, where an aborted first pass of the day led Seward to discover cylinder number four was housing a broken valve spring shortly after. Would it merely silence Seward’s efforts for the day against Cal Hayward, or would more damage be uncovered that would put the remainder of Seward’s Pony Express trip in jeopardy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days 37-40 – Staton, Michigan to Salem, Ohio

Reflecting on that fateful run that sidelined his Florida-based Mustang, Seward discovered the broken valve spring was on the intake side. “I was lucky being a broken intake spring,” said Seward. “A broken exhaust spring could have a greater chance of that valve hitting the piston.” But after pressurizing the cylinder, a leak on the intake side was discovered. After locating a set of replacement springs on Sunday, Seward decided to pull the cylinder head the next day, June 25th, and even though he found no notable damage, he took it to a local machine shop to make sure. The head checked out, and by that evening, cylinder four’s springs were replaced, the engine was back together, and Seward fired it up the following afternoon. “The cylinder head was fine,” said Seward. “I was surprised the spring breaking didn’t cause any further damage. I took the head off the car for nothing, but better safe than sorry.” Seward hit the road to Ohio that evening, making it to Akron before stopping to rest just before midnight. Wednesday, June 27th dawned with Seward visiting Stow, Ohio, the home of Mickey Thompson Tires, for a fresh pair of ET Street R tires. “The first pair of tires traveled almost 9000 miles,” said Seward. “And with the rain I had to navigate that day in Ohio, the new ones were much needed!” With Quaker City Motorsports Park on his mind, Seward rolled on with hopes of getting back to 8-second runs. But another spring decided to break just five miles from the track. “The engine’s EGT readings gave me the sign,” said Seward. “But I luckily had spares and a spring compressor, so the swap was made in a parking lot.” While completing the swap, Seward learned Quaker City had cancelled their race due to rain, so after rolling to the track for some photos, Seward contemplated where to go to replace the remainder of the valve springs before his next track date.

Total miles: 9002       Daily mileage: 415    Tracks visited: 22      Best pass of the day: No runs

 

Days 41-42 – Salem, Ohio to New Alexandria, Pennsylvania

Before making it to New Alexandria, Pennsylvania and his next track destination, Keystone Raceway Park, Seward was contacted by YellowBullet forum member Danny Rich. Rich offered up the use of his shop to allow Seward to replace the remainder of the valve springs before his next track date, as well as offering Seward a place to sleep for the night. “He was a big help,” said Seward. “I got everything replaced on Thursday, and the car sounded ready to go.” But before he could hit the road, Rich created a set of “Pony Express” decals for Seward, which were added to the Mustang’s quarter panels. Friday dawned with Seward rolling out to Keystone Raceway Park, where he arrived mid-afternoon to participate in their test and tune event. “I watched some of the action and finally found someone to race against,” said Seward. The big block ’69 Nova of Mark Platt had caught Seward’s eye, and Platt agreed to line up for a run. The first pass had Seward getting a three tenths of-a-second holeshot off the starting line, allowing his slower 9.47 to beat the 9.33 from Platt. But a low 146 mph for Seward indicated problems, which he traced to a bad plug wire on cylinder number three. “Platt requested a rematch, likely due to his bad reaction time,” said Seward. “Although I told him I was replacing a bad plug wire, I’m not sure he realized my first run was only on seven cylinders.” The rematch found both drivers a bit better on their reaction times, and although Platt improved to a holeshot aided-9.28, it wasn’t enough to keep Seward’s 8.89 from getting to the finish line first.

 

Total miles: 9124       Daily mileage: 122    Tracks visited: 23      Best pass of the day: 8.89 at 153 mph

 

 

Day 43 – New Alexandria, Pennsylvania to Beaver Springs, Pennsylvania

Making the trek across Pennsylvania without any issues, Seward arrived at Beaver Springs Dragway Saturday morning on the final day of June. Providing competition at this venue would be Tom Brady, wheeling a small block-powered ’86 Olds Cutlass wearing twin turbochargers. A car that once belonged to his grandmother, Seward quipped “I hope I don’t get embarrassed by grandma’s car.” A hot day had both competitors leery of traction as they lined up for the first run, and it didn’t take long for Seward to discover problems. “When I left the starting line, my car felt like it was walking instead of running,” said Seward. “I glanced down and realized I didn’t have my boost controller turned on.” That meant only 5 pounds of boost for the Mustang, and Brady was long gone, taking the first match race via a 9.23 to Seward’s 10.08. Brady offered Seward a rematch, and by this time Seward found out the track record for a street car was 159 mph, so that became a new target. “The track was a little slick,” said Seward. “So I couldn’t turn it way up.” An improved 1.41 60 foot time gave Seward the early lead when Brady was fighting for traction, and Seward stretched the lead for an 8.75 at 158.89 mph pass to best the 9.46 at 154 mph from the Cutlass. “For nearly 4000 feet of density altitude, I was happy with the run, despite being just .24 mph short of the record,” said Seward. Track employee Mark Reccetti and his father offered Seward dinner and a spot in their camper to sleep for the night, ending Seward’s week by adding over 700 miles to the clock and a trio of race tracks to his logbook.

 

Total miles: 9325       Daily mileage: 201    Tracks visited: 24      Best pass of the day: 8.75 at 158 mph


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