171. Lightning Lloyd Seay
How Carl D “Lightning Lloyd” Seay, “Reckless Roy” Hall, and Raymond Parks were related is unknown, although they called each other “cousins.” After Parks was released from prison, in 1937, he left whiskey tripping to younger drivers, usually trusted members of his extended family.
By all accounts, Lloyd Seay was the most talented. Like Parks, Seay came from a dirt-poor, domestically challenged home. Most who knew him described him as a polite, reserved man with a sense of humor, until he got behind the wheel. One revenooer called Seay the best driver of his time, claiming he’d caught the young man eight times, and had to shoot Seay’s tires every time to slow him down. A sheriff told the story of stopping Seay for speeding. Seay handed the constable a twenty-dollar bill, and the sheriff explained the fine was only ten bucks. Seay said he was paying for the return trip in advance. “Maybe you could let me go on through?”
At the time, moonshine drivers and others with “Fast Fords” would gather Sunday afternoons for local speed fests, sometimes at the county fairgrounds, or, perhaps, some farmer’s field. Most races were run for bragging rights. Seay tired of always beating the locals and asked Parks to take his racecar to a bigger stage.
In 1938, Red Vogt wrenched Floyd Roberts’ winning car in the Indianapolis 500, and Bill France first promoted a stock car race at Daytona Beach. It was also the start of Parks’ career as a racecar owner. Lakewood Speedway, “Dixie’s greatest track,” was a converted one-mile horse track outside Atlanta. To celebrate the anniversary of Armistice Day, a 150-mile “stock car” race was scheduled. Before the race started, several protests were filed, complaining that some of the entries weren’t “strictly stock.” The protests were dismissed by Red Vogt, the race’s technical director, the same man who probably modified them in the first place.
Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 fans showed up hours early for the event, and promoters had to schedule exhibitions and other entertainment. Seay and Roy Hall were entered, driving Vogt-prepared, Parks-owned ’34 Fords. Seay drove with a broken arm, claiming one hand was all he’d need. Also entered were Bill France and Red Byron in his first big race, in a field of thirty cars.
At 2 pm, the wrecking commenced. In one incident, Ernest Bush flipped in the 1st turn, and the crash started a fire. Crews sprinted to pull Bush from the fire, just before the gas tank exploded. Atlanta whiskey tripper Harley Taylor led the first seventy miles, until his steering failed. Most of the cars broke or wrecked. When dusk arrived, the promoters called the race, fifteen miles early.
Seay was declared the winner and awarded the $100 prize and the title of “world’s stock car auto race champion.” “Chief Ride in the Storm” was credited with 2nd. The official results listed France 4th and Byron 5th. Byron protested, claiming he’d lapped Seay during his opponent’s stops for tires. Since there were no written records, any protests were quickly dismissed.
For the next few years, the Parks team toured stock car races throughout the country, but Hall, not Seay, became the star. Reckless Roy had only one speed: He wrecked or won. Patient and confident, Seay maintained his pace, waiting for races to come back to him. Vogt’s impeccably prepared cars meant Hall usually won, even if he abused them. Enjoying the team’s success, but jealous of his cousin’s victories, Seay began to race more boldly, driving through curves on two wheels, sometimes rolling the car.
Seay probably raced Daytona a dozen times in the next few years, without success. In 1941, he won at Allentown PA, High Point NC, Greensboro NC, and finally, on 24 August, at Daytona Beach, leading every lap and setting a course record. “It’s about time I won here.” On Labor Day, he took the Lakewood race, besting Bob Flock.
The next morning, another of Seay’s cousins, Woodrow Anderson, shot Seay in the heart, and Seay’s brother, Jim, in the neck, in a dispute over $120 worth of sugar, used to make moonshine whiskey.