May 28th 2020
Seals-It Operations Manager Seth Carlson Answers EPARTRADE'S "5 Questions" Interview With Racing Industry Executives
Anyone who's been around the racing industry for any amount of time is familiar with Seals-It, the Connecticut-based company that has been designing and manufacturing specialty sealing products for over 25 years. Seals-It's roots go back even farther to its sister operation, Allyn Tool Company, founded in 1944 by Stanley Matczak. Stanley Jr., better known as "Skip," took over in 1970, and when he was approached by an aviation company in 1993 to produce a rubber and steel sealing ring, Matczak accepted the assignment and had to learn how to bond rubber to steel. Seals-It was born...and today the company bonds rubber to steel, aluminum, carbon fiber and other materials to create high-quality seals that are relied on in a wide range of industries, from the upper echelons of motorsports to aerospace, transportation, medical, agricultural and more. It was Jimmie Johnson's win at Daytona in 2005 with Seals-It grommets that really put the company on the map in racing. Owner and President Skip Matczak has always been a racing fan and team owner, fielding sprint cars, supermodifieds and midgets. In fact, he is one of the founders of the USAC Dirt Midget Association in the Northeast. In 2016, he asked a talented young racer named Seth Carlson to drive for him in that series, and in the intervening years Carlson has come onboard with the manufacturing business, excelling in B2B sales, marketing, inventory solutions, and design and engineering. In 2017, he was made distribution supervisor, and in 2018 was promoted to operations manager. On weekends, he continues to race for the home team. One of Carlson's many contributions to Seals-It is providing detailed technical information and instructional videos about its products for the company's website and social media outlets. Asked why he thinks that is important, Carlson said, "Our typical buyer is pretty tech savvy, so we try to give them as much information as possible to allow them to plan their project and buy the right part numbers. We're just trying to streamline the process as much as possible."
1. Tell us your story of how you got started in racing?
My dad owned an automotive repair shop and a couple of race cars. When I turned five, he bought me a quarter-midget that I started racing at Thompson Speedway. I've been racing every year, every weekend since then. After high school, I was going to college part-time and helping my dad in the shop. I realized that racing, at that point in my life, was more important to me than going to school. So that's the direction I went, and it worked out well.
I had been racing pavement midgets for a couple of years when Skip asked me to drive for him. After a year, he asked if I'd like to go to the PRI Show. At that point, I wasn't even part of the business; I was just racing the car. So I went to the show, and when I got back, I talked to him and said, 'I think this is something I could get into and want to do. I started working here just one day a week and just kind of progressed from there. I really enjoy the business side of this industry. I have a passion for helping Seals-It grow and stay competitive in the changing motorsports marketplace.
In my time away from Seals-It, I compete in racing up and down the East coast. From my own personal experiences, I can understand what the end-user needs out of their Seals-It products.
2. What is the most exciting thing to you about the motorsports industry today?
For me, it is definitely coming out with new parts and creating something from scratch. We do all of our own manufacturing in-house. We design everything, we manufacture it, and we also distribute it, so to get a part out from start to finish is definitely pretty cool.
3. What motivates you daily in your job?
Just my passion for racing. That's it.
4. What recent new technology or advancements in racing excite you the most?
For me personally, shock technology definitely excites me the most--especially in the circle track market. Adjustability is definitely the big thing. Back when I first started racing, everybody pretty much ran the same shocks; there were no differences. But now they've made driver adjustability and adjustability at the track so much easier that it definitely makes a big difference as the track changes throughout the day.
At Seals-It, design software like Solidworks has made our job a lot easier; it's a lot different from doing hand drawings. We're constantly trying to improve our processes and we mostly use CNC machinery, but there hasn't been anything brand-new come out that is head and shoulders above what we've been doing.
5. What should everybody in the racing industry know about your company?
We make all of our own rubber molds in-house and pretty much do the entire manufacturing process here.
Most people think that we just do the rod end seals and the grommet seals and things like that, but we have experience in making high-temperature axle seals and things of that nature. We also do custom high-performance rubber seals and can pretty much do any kind of rubber seal. Besides motorsports, we work in other high-tech industries like aviation, military, food processing, all sorts of different things that require the same high standards and specs as racing.
People should also know that we are getting into plastic thermoforming. That has literally just started; we haven't even sold a piece yet, but I'm holding one in my hand right now. Its primary use will be cooling ducts, such as brake cooling ducts, for race cars.
Charleigh Fox Photography