If everything you know about Chuck Seitsinger was learned by watching TV, then you don’t know much. You’ve seen a tough, scrappy dude who can throw down whether it’s in a car on a sketchy road or protecting a friend. While all this is true, there’s much more to his story.
Chuck’s road to the present has traveled through several extremely competitive aspects, including soccer, dirt track motorcycles, and many different forms of drag racing. The long and the short of it is Chuck is full of fight, and that’s driven him to be on top of his game. And although he had one of the fastest small tire street cars (the car now sports significantly larger tires), he is also an extremely accomplished track racer. Believe it or not, Chuck is a multi-time championship-winning import drag racer, which came long before the TV cameras.
We caught up with Chuck during the process of updating the Death Trap and spent some time at Mike Duffy Race Cars learning about Chuck and how he got into racing.
“I grew up around cars,” Chuck begins. “My dad was a mechanic and a drag racer, so I was around fast cars and drag racing my entire life. As soon as I was old enough to get a job I went into the automotive field. I started out like any young kid, cleaning the shop and running parts. Then, I started working on small jobs until I was given the opportunity to work on anything automotive related. In 1990 I got the opportunity to work at the Honda dealership as a tech and never looked back.
“Since I was old enough to ride a bike I have been racing something or someone,” he continues. “I rode motorcycles as a kid and always raced my buddies and other people at the trails that we rode at. When I was 16, I got the opportunity to race for a neighbor that saw me riding one day. He asked me to race this funny looking motorcycle — it was a flat track or dirt track bike. I practiced in a field for an hour or so to get the feel of the bike and then went to my first ever race. I entered two different classes just to get the experience, and finished third and fourth that day. I was hooked and ended up racing dirt track motorcycles for several years, making a name for myself around Oklahoma and nationally. I raced professionally for a few years and traveled the country. It was an awesome experience and set up how competitive I would be in every aspect of life.”
When you walk into Alternation Motorsports, you're greeted by trophies, plaques, pictures, and a general sense of just how big a deal Chuck was in the import world. He even has an NHRA Wally on display.
Like most racers, Chuck’s love of speed was built on the street, in a truck of all things. But a chance encounter at a stop light would forge a friendship that was destined for racing success.
“I’ve always had hot rods and fast cars,” Chuck explains. “I had a ‘94 Ford Lightning that I raced around town, and I ran some punk kid one night — we started talking and soon became friends, which ended up with me working on his car and helping him make it faster. We headed to a race called World Ford Challenge 1 in Bowling Green Kentucky, and runnered-up. My buddy, Chris “Mud Duck” Derrick, made a name for himself in NMRA racing for years, I was just one of the guys working on the car, pushing him to new levels. We won a lot of races back then. I became friends with racers and crew guys like John Urist, Mike Murrillo, Tim Lynch, and Steve Petty, to name a few. After Chris stopped drag racing, I got into drag boat racing for a few years and traveled around with the SDBA (Southern Drag Boat Association), but was soon back into car racing.”
Chuck even has an NHRA ‘Wally’ trophy for one of his Hot Rod class import victories.
Although it didn’t take long for Chuck to get back into the racing scene, compared to his previous track experience, he did it in a rather unconventional way.
“The import scene was getting really big and I was a Honda mechanic,” he explains. “So, it just made sense that I give it a shot. I had Mike Duffy Race Cars in Moore, Oklahoma, help me build a Honda Civic hatchback, and then I got Bob Norwood and Tony Palo help tune the car and off we went. We showed up on the East coast in Virginia at the first race of the season for the NOPI racing series that was aired on the [now defunct ] Speed Channel. Racers were laughing when they found out I was from Oklahoma. We were asked questions like ‘do we still ride in wagons’, and ‘do we ride horses to work?’ I answered their questions when I was number two qualifier at the first professional race I entered!
“By the end of the season, everyone knew where Oklahoma was. I won the 2004 national championship in the NOPI Pro 4 Cylinder class, and went on to win another championship in 2006. I set plenty of records along the way until the scene slowed down in 2008. I still have the import car and plan on bringing it back out in 2017 to play around and hit a few races.”
Mike Duffy started working on the shortly before Justin “Big Chief” Shearer’s violent crash. Once that happened, the project went from a simply backhalf job to an entirely new chassis.
As the import racing scene began to diminish, Chuck wanted to keep racing, but was looking to get back behind the wheel of some American iron. He started looking for a new car, but wouldn’t have to go very far.
“I was looking around for a street-raced car I could play around with, when Shawn ‘Murder Nova’ Ellington showed up at my shop with this Mustang,” Chuck shares. “This thing was janky. Chief [Justin Shearer], Flip [Tyler Priddy], and Shawn said we call this pile the Death Trap. I told them I liked it and ended up buying the car from Shawn, and just like that, I was back to racing.
“When I bought the car, it ran 6.0’s and was put together with metal building screws. I soon learned how it got its name, the Death Trap. I put better motors in it and made it a lot faster than it was ever designed to go with how it was built.”
Chuck put some serious time, effort, and money into the Death Trap making it what it was. The nitrous combination was strong enough to hang with the mid-pack group on the 405’s ‘Top 10 list’, but, like every racer, Chuck wanted to go quicker and faster. As the show’s popularity grew, Chuck (and everyone else on the list) had to step up their programs in an effort to advance their position. At that point, Chuck hit up one of his old NMRA friends to help make more power.
John Urist, the owner of Hellion Turbo Systems in New Mexico, assisted Chuck with the conversion from nitrous to twin turbochargers. This was a big move, as many of the top contenders on the list had already employed a similar setup. When Chuck brought the car out with the new combination, it was apparent fairly quickly that the car had more power than the little tires and most roads could handle. Chuck worked diligently to get a handle on the car’s newfound power, though most of what you saw on TV was tire smoke and lost races.
It wasn’t long before Chuck made the decision to pull the car off the list to make some needed changes.
“As the show progressed, it was apparent that a small-tire car wasn’t going to keep up on the streets of OKC,” Chuck explains. “I contacted Mike Duffy Race Cars and dropped the car off to back-half it in October of 2015. After Chief’s wreck at the end of 2015, we decided that the back-half patch job just wasn’t enough, and so we redid the entire car. It received a new cage, suspension, more fiberglass, carbon fiber, and most importantly, big tires.
“The car is still a back-half with a stock firewall, but it’s now a really nice car — it’s hard to call it a Death Trap, but that’s the name and the car is married to it.”
Knowing a little bit more about the car's history and where the name comes from, it's easy to see that Mike Duffy has turned the Death Trap into a rolling work of art.
Outside of racing, Chuck is also a businessman.
“Alternative Motorsports was started in August of 2000,” he tells us. “I’d worked at the Honda dealership since the early ‘90s and saw that Oklahoma City needed a performance shop to fix up imports. We have an eight bay shop with a chassis dyno, alignment machine, and other equipment. We’re a full service shop. I set my dreams to own my own business and moved forward.
The cockpit is nicely configured for the basic necessities of the driver.
Though the shop had been operational and open to the automotive enthusiasts of OKC, Chuck remained as a service writer at a local Honda dealership. He tells us, however, that he recently left his position there to focus on the car and the show, as he has every intention of climbing the list and doing it quickly.
When you talk to Chuck about his aspiration beyond the show, the answer was a bit surprising for a street racer from Oklahoma.
The twin-turbo Small-Block Chevy engine still resides under the hood. It is the sale 421ci Morgan and Sons Race Engine that countless bottles on laughing gas have been pumped through. Aspiration now comes from a pair of 76mm Precision turbos. In just five test passes the car had already laid down some blisteringly fast numbers, with elapsed times in the mid 4-second zone (eighth mile) while shaking the car down. It's safe to say that once Chuck gets a handle on the new chassis, the Death Trap is bound for the top of the list!
“I’ll never stop racing,” Chuck is quick to proclaim. “I really like 275 radial racing and when the show is over I’ll get a 275 car together and try to run one of the points series, either the NMRA or NMCA. There will be tons of no-prep and grudge races to hit, so I might do it all. Only time will tell, but there’s no stop in the future of Street Outlaws’ original 405. We’re currently filming season nine and I can tell you the racing is the best it’s been in a long time!”
Chuck tells us that Chief has made some changes to the rules that fans of the show are going to be very excited about. Although he would not go into further detail, he’s confident the public will like what they see from the 405.
With the exception of big tires, the Death Trap retains its original look. It just gets down the street WAY quicker!
With the incredible early results Chuck has had with the newest version of the Death Trap, he’s certainly in a position to take another shot at the list. It will be great to see his hard work pay off as he attempts to climb to the top.
“Anything I’ve set my mind to, I have succeeded in — motorcycle racing, boat racing, imports, everything but this list and this show. I’ve never been in the top five, and damn sure not number one. So, there’s only one thing left to do, and that’s rebuild my car to compete and be number one on this list. I won’t rest until it’s done!”
The new big tires look right at home under the Death Trap.