Where are they now? Catching up with Ken Schrader
There is no doubt that Ken Schrader was destined to be a racing driver from the day he was born.
As a baby, his parents kept an eye on him at his father Bill's combined auto and racing repair shop or took him with them when Bill competed in short-distance races in his home in Missouri and the Midwest.
Then, almost as soon as he learned to walk, the younger Schrader learned to drive. To keep track of her son, his mother tied Kenny's go-kart to a tree, which he kept circling.
And Schrader has been going in circles ever since.
Schrader, just 66 years old, is as busy as ever and has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. He's still racing and plans to have 70 races in different classes by the end of this year.
RELATED: Ken Schrader's Career Statistics
He also owns the 1/3 mile Federated Auto Parts Speedway on I-55 Dirt Track in Pevely, Missouri, is a partner with fellow racing drivers Tony Stewart and Kenny Wallace at Macon Speedway, Illinois, and is a partner on a dormant track in Kentucky with Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As if that weren't enough, Schrader has also been the lead test driver for the last six months for the up-and-coming Camping World Superstar Racing Experience, which ended its debut season in Nashville last weekend.
So what about retirement? No way, chuckles Schrader. He's still having too much fun to think about.
"Most people retire from a normal life job," Schrader told NASCAR.com. “I never really had a job. I have to play all my life. Why the hell if you're doing something you want to do, quit and retire? "
Since he started driving competitively in the 1960s, Schrader has driven everything from stock cars to late models, trucks to midgets, sprint cars to modifieds and much more.
He hasn't counted the number of races he's participated in in his career. He has over 1,060 starts in NASCAR and ARCA alone. Add several thousand more launches in other series, especially in the base ranks.
While he has only 45 combined wins in NASCAR and ARCA competitions, Schrader is just 10 wins away from the 375th overall win in his storied career.
And he has the paperwork to prove it, because he put together scrapbooks from every season he has ever raced, up until the late 1960s.
Whether on asphalt, sand, dirt and every other conceivable racing surface in between, Schrader is one of the most competitive drivers who have ever been behind the wheel.
But he also has a very philosophical view of his career.
"I never added up the number of races, but whatever that number is, we should have won more than we did," joked Schrader, agreeing with one of Richard Petty's most famous lines.
“I love Richard Petty, he has won 200 races. But he also said, 'Do you realize how many of these damn things I've lost?' "
From 1984 to 2013, Schrader spent nearly 30 years - 22 full-time - in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The most notable part of that tenure came between 1988 and 1996 when he drove for Hendrick Motorsports, including all four of his Career Cup wins and a rare Trifecta by winning pole for the Daytona 500 three years in a row (1988). until 1990).
He celebrated his best overall season in 1994 when he finished fourth in the overall standings behind Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin and Schrader's compatriot Rusty Wallace.
But despite all the successes he enjoyed for Team Hendrick, Schrader said his career highlight was driving for team owner Junie Donlavey.
There is a good reason for that. Donlavey gave Schrader his first full-time ride in what was then the Winston Cup Series. Schrader drove three seasons for Donlavey before joining HMS in 1988. But even today, more than seven years after Donlavey's death, Schrader still shows the great respect and gratitude that he showed his former boss and friend, referring to several times in conversation not as Junie, but as “Mr. Donlavy. "
"To really nail down (the best moment of his career) was in 1987 when we won the Daytona 500 qualifying race for Mr. Donlavey," said Schrader. “That day was the best, not because I drove into a NASCAR Victory Lane for the first time, even though it wasn't a points race, but because I drove for Mr. Donlavy.
“All the competitors on the show had so much respect for Mr. Donlavey, knew what he was working with and what a good man he was. Just being there that day was probably the best. It was pretty cool. We won the (qualifying) race next year with Mr. Hendrick's car and it was great, but it wasn't like driving into Victory Lane in Mr. Donlavey's car. We should drive into Victory Lane in Rick's car. "
Donlavey was one of the earliest Cup-level owners of NASCAR, making 863 starts with more than four dozen different drivers from 1950 to 2002 (many only made one- or two-race fill-in starts).
"(Donlavey) did a lot with little, but he did it with the highest class and his kind," said Schrader. “Even when I talk about him now, I still get goose bumps. He was just a great man. He, Bud Moore, Junior Johnson, along with the Frances, what they did to build this sport. It would not be there (without) them. "
Schrader's final Cup season was part-time in 2013, driving for Frank Stoddard's Go Fas Racing.
"We still had the opportunity to run a restricted timetable again in 2014," said Schrader. “But at the end of 2013 I went for a walk in the garage and didn't see any other 58-year-old driver. It's been a lot of fun over the years, but it was time (to stop). "
However, that did not mean the end of Schrader's entire racing career, only the end of his NASCAR career. There was and is still a lot left in his personal tank, so to speak.
"There was just a lot of other things I wanted to do, a lot of other races I wanted to do and (staying in NASCAR) got in my way," said Schrader.
In a way, a strong comparison can be drawn between Schrader and current cup star Kyle Larson. During their two careers, they drove as often as they could, not only in NASCAR but also in other series like sprint cars and the like.
Larson is known for often competing in 60 or more races in a season, both in the Cup and other series, mostly sprint cars. Schrader was in a sense the Larson of his time. While cup races were his bread and butter, he added a ton of extra jam by often competing in well over 100 total races each year.
He is a bit younger, with 35 races already in the record books this season, another 35 are still before the end of the year.
"If I go to Randolph County Speedway in Moberly, Missouri this Sunday, it will be my 35th race so far this year," Schrader said last week. "And if you add in all of the tests and the shaking up of the cars that we did for SRX, we will have been in a car for 100 days this year."
Hell, Schrader is just warming up this season - and still got a kick out of it all.
"I've just ridden a badass Silver Crown car for a few races at Springfield and Du Quoin, Illinois this year, I mean a good one," said Schrader.
Then he added with a laugh, “I reminded you of how old I was when you signed me up for these two races and maybe now you really want to think about it.
"They said, 'No, it's okay, we want you, we know that." So I said,' Man, if you decide to fire me at Springfield, you won't piss me off. I come to Du Quoin anyway and drink a beer from your cooler. We still have a lot of fun in all of these different races. "
While Schrader's racing career has been fueled by an unquenchable thirst for competition for more than five decades, it's the fans who are, so to speak, the bikes he's ridden.
He loves to interact with those who have watched him at all levels of his career, including some second and even third generation supporters.
"I don't know if I'll agree with you 100 percent if we're really a fan favorite," Schrader said before adding another zinger. "We may not have nearly as many fans as many of these guys, but we didn't piss off nearly as many people either."
And the Zinger just keep coming ...
“It's great, it's worth it,” added Schrader. "But the part that I start struggling with more than a little is that 30 year old or older boys or girls come over and they want me to sign this photo when they were sitting on my lap 30 years ago - and they want to duplicate (the original pose) what we are doing. We have fun with it.
"And then we get a couple of middle-aged women who come and smile and tell me 'my grandmother loves you'."
When asked what kept him from racing all these years, Schrader couldn't help but make good-natured fun of himself.
"Probably being brain dead and doing nothing else," he laughed, adding another oomph. "My wife (Ann) will tell you very quickly, she says he's not that good a driver, but it's the best skill he has." "
But Schrader also has a serious side.
"I just love to race, I love to drive the car," he said. “And it's not just driving a car. It's close to being in the store, it's all. I just love all the different parts of it.
“The next race is the most important for me. When someone asks me what my favorite race was or something like that, my standard answer is, 'I hope it hasn't happened yet.'
“Right now, I'm just worried about this weekend. I'll get to that stuff (retirement) later. I was in a race with (NASCAR Hall of Famer) Red Farmer (who is still racing at 88) earlier this year and, I'll tell you what, he made me feel pretty young. "
The Ken Schrader file:
* Age: 66
* Hometown: Fenton, Mon.
* Notable: 1980 USAC Stock Car Rookie of the Year, 1982 USAC Silver Crown Champion, 1983 USAC Sprint Car Champion, 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year, 1989 and 1990 Busch Clash Winner, 1988-1990 Daytona 500 Pole Winner, 2009 National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame Sportsman Award 2009.
* NASCAR Cup career: 763 starts, 4 wins, 64 top five and 184 top 10 finishes. Also earned 23 poles. Best result of the season: 4th (1994).
* NASCAR Xfinity Series career: 116 starts, 2 wins, 18 top 5 and 39 top 10 finishes. Also five poles.
* NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career: 105 starts, 1 wins, 12 top 5 and 37 top 10 placements. Also two poles.
* Career in the ARCA Menards Series: 84 starts, 18 wins, 52 top 5 and 66 top 10 finishes. Also 22 poles.
* NASCAR K&N Pro Series West: 28 starts, 11 wins, 18 top 5 and 23 top 10 placements. Also six poles.
* NASCAR Southwest Series: 33 starts, 7 wins, 17 top 5 and 19 top 10 finishes. Also four poles.
Veteran motorsport writer Jerry Bonkowski writes a series of Where Are They Now? Stories this year for NASCAR.com. Check out the stories he's made about Shawna Robinson, Sam Hornish Jr., Bobby Labonte, Greg Biffle, Ricky Rudd, Darrell Waltrip, Mark Martin, Marcos Ambrose, and Juan Pablo Montoya. You can also follow Jerry on Twitter @JerryBonkowski and @TheRacingBeat, as well as the The Racing Beat podcast, available on most podcast platforms.
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American racing driver
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