One could easily argue that as Cal Ripken Jr. is to baseball, as Gordie Howe is to hockey, and Brett Favre to football, Randy Seward is to drag racing — the sport’s Ironman.
Seward, an engineer by trade who has called several states — and even Japan for a recent stretch — home, has made headlines in years past for his staggering long-distance efforts behind the wheel of his 8-second Ford Mustang, trekking cross-country through rain, snow, and any other element in his path while ticking off thousand of miles at a time. He doesn’t have a support car, doesn’t pull a trailer full of spares and supplies, and he rarely has a co-pilot — just himself, an unbreakable Fox coupe, and the open road ahead.
Now back stateside and living in Florida, Seward is set to embark on his most ambitious adventure to date, one he says he’s been planning since 2010, even before his other long-distance forays. On May 18th, Seward will pull out of his driveway and head North. And then West, and then East, and then South … with a few navigational jogs in between.
Over the course of 68 days, from May 18th until his planned return on July 25th, Seward will journey across the continent and back, visiting 38 dragstrips and covering some 10,500 miles on the summer adventure of a lifetime. His trek will first take him through Alabama and Tennessee before a Southerly route to Southern California, before he points back to the East, going through Colorado and Kansas to the Midwest and North to Chicago and Michigan. Beginning in July, he’ll hit the Northeast and Eastern seaboard, visiting a host of tracks in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and elsewhere on his trek back South to Florida.
I look at this like I’m the first one to ever do it, and if anybody else does it again, it’ll be copying what I did.
“What’s more exciting than taking a roadtrip and just getting in your car and driving somewhere going from point A to point B and stopping places along the way? asks Seward. “I just combined that with drag racing and a fast car. I mean, how many guys would love to get in their car and go track to track and run at every one one of them and keep on going?”
The goal of Seward’s Pony Express, as he’s coined it (besides the pure thrill of traversing the open road in nomadic fashion and seeing the country) is to visit as many racetracks as possible along the route, making at least one to two passes at each track. “If there was a track available on the route, I tried to put it on my schedule and get to it,” he says. Seward hopes to procure a race against some locals at each of the venues to put on show for the crowd, noting “I’d like to find some street/strip guys with fast cars to do a heads-up race, kind of a fun thing. I’m not out squash anybody … if they show up with a 9.50 car or something … I’ll slow the car down to make it a good race for the fans.”
“Plus,” he adds, “I have to manage this thing, because by the time I’m done it’ll have 80 to 90 passes on it, so I don’t want to go out and run 8.50 on every pass.”
In 2012 Seward traveled from his then-home in Mew Mexico to Florida to compete in True Street at the NMRA Spring Break Shootout, covering 4,000 miles and traversing snowy mountain passes and the hot, open desert along the way. He noted at the time, “I never really wanted to have a trailer and a truck available, because that’s the only thing they’re used for is going to the track and back,” said Seward. “And to add to that, it’s a lot of work to have to load the car up, unload it, make a couple passes, and go through it all again. Basically, it’s just more fun to drive the car to the track, bring a few essentials along, adjust the air pressure, go fast, and drive it home.” This trip, however, will surpass that previous endeavor nearly three-fold and exceed the traditional mileage of Drag Week — a grueling test of a vehicle in and of itself — by some nine times.
What’s more exciting than taking a roadtrip and just getting in your car and driving somewhere going from point A to point B and stopping places along the way?
“I look at this like I’m the first one to ever do it, and if anybody else does it again, it’ll be copying what I did,” says Seward of the journey before him.
Seward’s Mustang is largely the same as it was eight years ago, although he has assembled a sister engine to the one he’s driven umpteen thousands miles over the years, which will power his Pony Express. He’s also switched to E85 to avoid having to track down racing-blend fuels along his route.
“I’ve learned to tune the car and make it a little bit faster,” he says, adding that at the NMRA season opener this spring, he recorded his quickest elapsed time to date at 8.22-seconds, completing the True Street competition with an 8.47-second average elapsed time over three runs.
“To a certain extent, the car has already done close to what it’s going to do on this trip. I don’t think the street miles are going to bother it any, other than the tires. I suspect that as long as I don’t have anything happen that requires me to pull the engine, I should be good on fixing it on the fly. If something does go wrong there’s a little added drama to it, and people love drama I’ve found, but I have people who are willing to help me along the way … I really wanted to make this a grassroots racers effort where everyone could be involved, could show up and race me at the track, and by relying on other racers it really makes it a group effort,” he shares.
Once this trip is in the books — and Seward is confident as ever it’ll be a success, what can he possible do for an encore?
“I’d love to ship the car to Australia … I could do something like this down there. I’ve thought about Europe, but I think Europe with all of the boundaries to the country, how much planning and coordination it would take to go from country to country. So that’s like third on my list.”