Buckle up for this week’s DragChamp Racer Spotlight with Seth McLean! He talks about his racing roots, future goals, and that one time he got dressed on the starting line.
BOISE, ID – Seth McLean got his start in the racing world before he was even born. His mom used to push his dad’s Super Pro Dodge Dart through the staging lanes while she was pregnant with Seth. Coming back full circle, Seth now races that Dodge Dart and has followed in his championship father’s footsteps.
McLean began racing at 10 years old and got a taste of life as a traveling racer early on. While his dad was racing with the West Coast Pro Mod Association, Seth was wheeling his junior dragster and loving every second of it. Shortly after, his dad stopped racing the pro mod and Seth’s racing was on pause.
Once he was in high school, Firebird Raceway offered a class in Seth’s age group and he jumped at the opportunity. He began racing an orange 1970 Plymouth Duster, nicknamed The Great Pumpkin, and has been turning on win lights ever since.
Two Cars Are Better Than One
McLean competes in both bottom and top bulb racing and has two race cars to get the job done. The Great Pumpkin mentioned earlier is his strip and street footbrake ride.
A few family secrets are thrown into the transmission, since Seth’s dad makes a living building them, but otherwise it’s basically stock. The small block Mopar engine on pump gas runs 11.80s in the quarter and 7.40s in the eighth-mile, given Firebird Raceway’s altitude.
Seth’s Super Pro ride is a tube chassis 1969 Dodge Dart that was originally built by his dad in the early 1990’s. Over the years it had numerous upgrades and has been worked on by Dan Soran of Soran Race Cars.
They have dialed back the 604 cubic inch Indy motor to improve consistency where it runs 8.40s in the quarter-mile and 5.30s in the eighth.
Don’t ask Seth to pick a favorite because he says they both have significant importance to him. “The Duster has taken care of me, put me in the winner’s circle, and made me look good when I definitely was not driving well. The Dart is my dad’s original car, so it is awesome to carry on his legacy in the same vehicle.”
After having to settle for second place for a few years, Seth finally clinched that championship title last season. In fact, he won the track championship at Firebird Raceway in both Pro and Super Pro while wheeling both cars.
He’s won the Nightfire Nationals in the Heavy class and has been to the semifinals in Pro and Super Pro multiple times. Seth has had countless race wins and has picked up a few gamblers race wins at some of the bigger events.
In 2019, he was runner up in the Pro during the Pacific Raceways ET Finals, just one win light short of making a trip to Pomona. McLean has even picked up a win on his Honda 100 during a big money pit vehicle race!
Go Big or Go Home
Seth is starting to set his eyes on the big money bracket racing scene as he’s becoming more financially independent. He says, “You have to be there and compete to even start to dream of pulling one off, but if we didn’t think we had a chance…would we even spend the money to go?”
Over the weekend, McLean made the trip to Las Vegas to compete during the K&N Spring Fling Million. He held his own with some of the best in the business and earned a semifinal finish in Saturday’s Pro class. It won’t be long before Seth is seen holding a big check!
It’s All About the People
McLean credits his parents for making the biggest impact on his success. He told us, “They raised me in this sport and continue to support the hobby I truly love.” Seth’s girlfriend, Ellen, can always keep him focused, on his A-game, and pushes him to continue to do better.
He also names Dennis Radford as an ally and always has spare backup parts. Mopar guys tend to stick together and maybe it’s because those parts can be hard to come by.
McLean enjoys the fellowship between drivers at Firebird Raceway and has grown up watching and learning from the talented racers. He says. “Locally the big dogs were always Mark Kidd, Lafferty, Aaron Marcum, Barnharts, Gordy, Jaggers, Patten, Northups, Shaffers, and many other gifted drivers.”
Like many others, he has admired the talent of racers like Nick Hastings, Justin Lamb, Jake Howard, and fellow Guess Who Racing team mate, Andy Schmall. Seth says he’s learned a lot from Schmall and it’s improved his own performance off the bottom bulb.
McLean earns his paycheck as the General Operations Manager for Bargreen Ellingson Boise. In a nutshell, he works behind the scenes for kitchens across the country, whether they are in restaurants, schools, prisons, etc. Seth was named Operations Manager of the Year in 2020, so it sounds like he knows what he’s doing!
Seth believes the hardest part of drag racing is the financial burden. Otherwise he says, “Being out there, even on a bad day, is still better than doing anything else in the world. If money wasn’t a factor, then everything would be smooth sailing, I think.”
McLean’s Super Pro Dart is sponsored by a local car dealership, Peterson Dodge. Aside from their generous support, Seth and his dad fund the rest of their racing operation.
Given an endless supply of money, McLean would first purchase a comfortable toterhome to travel in. He feels it would be a nice upgrade from the open trailer, tent, grill, and cooler combination he has now. Behind the toter would be a stacker trailer equipped with two door cars, because Seth said dragsters are boring.
Moments from the Track
Most of all, Seth loves time spent at the track with his family, friends, and the competition. He also appreciates the racetrack staff and gives a nice shoutout to his home track. “Firebird owners and operators are second to none and treat us like family. Everyone should come down for Nightfire Nationals, or any of the races. You won’t regret it.”
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows as Seth recounts his most embarrassing racing moment. He explained that the West Coast takes safety equipment very seriously and he was on the starting line for an elimination round in Pro.
“One time I forgot to put my pants on and I just had basketball shorts when I went up to the line. They didn’t disqualify me, but I did have to get out of the car while pre-staged and put my pants on in front of everyone. I am 6’8” so putting them on in the car was not an option.”
During any other pass, McLean reminds himself to breathe and stay focus before rolling up to the line. He may have a few compulsive tendencies as well such as checking his gloves, making sure he’s in first gear, clearing out the throttle an exact number of times, etc. He calls those routines going into “robot mode.”
McLean continues to race as he strives to become better which each lap down the track. He knows you can’t always be the best on the property but you can always work towards being the best you can be.
If forced to choose, Seth would say he’s better at the finish line than the starting line. He explains, “The games down there are pretty fun, and sometimes you can salvage complete crap from the starting line at the big end.”
McLean’s passion for the sport extends beyond the racing surface. Don’t be surprised if you see a random truck on the highway drop you on your head, it’s just Seth judging the imaginary stripe. If the windows are down on a warm day, you might even hear him making race car noises in that daily driver, a 2016 Dodge Ram 2500.
Get to know Seth McLean a little better in the following Q&A:
Besides racing, what do you do in your free time?
I love the mountains and outdoors. I definitely enjoy animals and scenery more than people. Going up to our ranch in northern Idaho or to the lake is my happy place besides the racetrack.
What is your favorite sport and/or team?
Being so tall, basketball is my favorite sport to play. Football is the most fun to watch but I couldn’t afford the injuries. My favorite team is the Rams…the St. Louis Rams. I’m still not sure about the whole LA thing.
What are you really good at?
Not to toot my own horn, but basketball, beer pong, corn hole, and trivia games.
What’s your favorite thing to eat? Restaurant?
Anything meat, potatoes, and veggies. I love cooking as well as trying new places. Being in the restaurant business, I probably shouldn’t say who my favorite is!
Would you rather hang out with a crowd or spend a quiet evening at home?
I am more of an introvert. So a quiet evening in the mountains or at home is a lot less chaotic than crowded places. But if it is the right crowd, I enjoy it.
Favorite movie or TV show?
I love anything funny! Eurovision, Elf, Wheels of Fortune, Hot Rod, or Adam Sandler movies have to be at the top of the list. We have a yearly Halloween race at Firebird. Ellen and I dressed up as the characters from Elf and it was a hit.
Full of Appreciation
Seth immediately expresses gratitude towards his parents for allowing him to race his entire life. He also appreciates their support as well as the motivation from the best crew chief, Ellen.
He adds, “My team Guess Who for always making racing fun and keeping the competition level high. The Northrup family for their help getting me off the ground and loaning me cars to run before mine were dialed in or when mine are broken. The Todd family for the great hospitality, dragging my car all over the place, and making the track a fun place to hang out. The entire Firebird/New family for giving us comradery, a place to do what we love, and pushing us to get better and move up in the industry each race. Also, I would like to thank DragChamp for giving us little guy sportsman racers a platform of recognition. It really is awesome hearing everybody’s stories.”
Jessica was born into a family of drag racers and fell in love with the sport at a young age. She began competing at 13 and has been hooked ever since! She even met her husband at the World Footbrake Challenge VII. Jessica works full time as an Ultrasound Technologist but spends almost every weekend chasing win lights at IHRA and NHRA bracket races.