By James Essex
Bud Seymour of Columbus recalls where his nearly 30-year career in racing began with junkyard cars transforming into professionally built and fabricated racecars in the late 1970s and to home-built cars at the end of his career.
Seymour was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1944. His family moved to the Indiana city of Washington in Daviess County so his dad could continue his work on the railroad. That’s where he met his wife.
Seymour then join the United States Army, serving from 1962-65. In September of ’65 he moved to Columbus and started working at Cummins Engine Company. He worked at Cummins for 35 years, retiring in 2000.
His brother Pete knew Bill and Mary Barnes, and that’s where his love for racing began. Bud found out they owned B&M Salvage in Elizabethtown and that Bill was involved in racing and that was something in which Seymour was interested.
In 1967, Barnes built a 1955 Chevy racecar.
“It had a 348-cubic inch engine; it was a V8 with a four- barrel carburetor,” Seymour said.
But there was one problem. Nobody wanted to drive it. So Seymour stepped up and said he would do it. He had no experience at all, but at his first race he didn’t show any signs of that inexperience. He qualified for the trophy dash the first night out.
“I remember it was me, Joe Bowles, Ray Godsey and Jack Owens in that trophy dash,” Seymour said. “I didn’t do so well in that race. In the feature, I was running good; then I spun out and killed the engine. I couldn’t get it refired. We found out later it was a vacuum line that had come off.”
Seymour then started racing at 25th Street Speedway in Columbus. The first-time racing at the venerable fairgrounds track, he won a heat race.
“It paid $50 to win a heat race back then,” he said. “That was pretty good money at the time. I went and bought a pair of racing tires with the money I won.”
For the 1968 season, Barnes built another ’55 Chevy, this time with a 396-cubic inch engine. There was plenty of optimism that it was going to be a good season for the team. But one night racing at Columbus, the car ended up going over the guardrail and into the horse barn, which was located just outside of the racetrack.
“Well, if that wasn’t good enough, we went down to Brownstown and was going down the backstretch and went into Turn 3 and cut down a tire and ended up flipping into the tree they used to have outside of the track,” Seymour said. “The fuel tank came out of it, they had to cut the seat belts in the car, and I was still upside down. I cut my arm pretty bad before I got out of the car.”
The team then built another ’55 Chevy to race after totaling out the other one at Brownstown. Barnes then hired Columbus racer Ken “Hillbilly” Ogle to be teammates with Seymour. Ogle would run the famous “8 Ball” car, and Seymour would pilot the “7 Ball” car. Bill Barnes passed away in 1974, leaving Seymour in limbo as far as his racing career.
But then Buddy Burton of Elizabethtown contacted Seymour about driving his car in 1975. Along with Buddy’s brother Tommy, they teamed up for two years with great success. Seymour won several feature events during that time. They started with a 6-cylinder engine in their 1963 Chevy II, which was nicknamed “Foxy Lady,” a name that was put on the car by the man who hand-lettered their racer, Paul Ferguson.
When the 6-cylinder cars became too expensive to run, the Burton and Seymour team switched to the newly-started Sportsman Division at Twin Cities.
“It was becoming difficult to get engine parts for the 6-cylinder cars, and they started fading away,” Seymour said. “There was just a limited supply of parts you could get, and the cost just became too much to afford to keep racing them, so we put a V8 in it and ran the rest of ’75 with it.”
The 1976 racing season proved to be the best in Seymour’s career. He won several Sportsman features at Twin Cities during the year and finished second in the points to Phil Fultz of Clifford.
“We should have won the championship,” Seymour said. “We won all the holiday special events they ran, but the promoter, Skip Fry, gave us no points for those races because they let the Brownstown cars come over and run. With those wins added in, we would have won the points.,”
After a successful season in ’76, Seymour left the team to drive for Clarence Burkhead of Madison. Burkhead has been in racing for awhile with drivers Leo Boner and Bruce Steinert wheeling his cars.
Burkhead would be the last car owner for which Seymour would drive. The race team lasted until 1994.
Seymour’s last two years of racing was in a Camaro that he and his son Paul put together.
In all the years that Seymour raced, he never took a dime. All the money that he won went back into the racecar. Seymour recalls the drivers he could race fender-to-fender and door-to-door without any issues.
“There were several that were good to race against,” he said. “Probably the most notable were Chuck Gilpin, John Warner and Johnny Robbins.”
Not that there were not any dustups with fellow competitors along the way. Seymour recalls a night where he and Phil Fultz were racing for the lead in the feature.
“I was behind him, and I kept trying to pass him,” Seymour said. “I’d get up real close, and he would cut me off every time. I noticed he a had mirror the size of one that would find in a school bus. I could see the whites of eyes. After the race, I went over to his pit with a hammer and knocked it out of the car and told him why I did it. I never had much problem with him after that.”
Seymour’s son Paul of Columbus started his racing career in 1995. He raced until 2006. He is now racing radio-controlled cars at Fast 5 in Columbus.
Seymour said the greatest compliment he has ever received in racing was being named to the inaugural Hall of Fame class of 2015 at Twin Cities.
“To be considered for the Hall of Fame was nice, but being named as a member in the first year they inducted pretty much made by career complete,” he said.
James Essex writes a motorsports notebook for The Republic. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.