Skip to content

Schrader set for likely last NASCAR Cup start in Homestead

Nov 14, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT

The CarCash Mudsummer Classic Getty Images

We touched on Mark Martin’s possible last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start yesterday. There’s a good chance Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will also be Ken Schrader’s last. The Fenton, Mo. native will make his tenth start of 2013 in Frank Stoddard’s No. 32 Fas Lane Racing Ford, and the 763rd of his 30-plus year Cup career.

Like Martin, Schrader has also reduced his Cup slate to a part-time schedule over the last decade or so. Schrader’s four years older – 58 – but no less motivated to stop racing anything else, almost anywhere around the country.

Schrader might be the closest thing to a modern day Dick Trickle, who the NASCAR community mourned earlier this year. Schrader has made a living with his own team racing on dirt, with sporadic Camping World Truck Series starts along the way. It’s hard to count the number of dirt and short track victories Schrader has achieved, and it’s very likely he’ll continue in this capacity for years to come.

In NASCAR’s top level, Schrader won four times, and had eight top-10 finishes in the championship (best of fourth in 1994). It’s easy to forget now in the age of corporate-influenced superstars, but Schrader was one of the founding members of Hendrick Motorsports’ driving lineup, known as much for his quick wit and sense of humor that made him a fan favorite.

Case in point: when he and a then-24-year-old Jeff Gordon collided at Talladega in 1995, and Schrader flipped, Gordon was near inconsolable. But Schrader laughed it off after emerging unscathed.

Still, Schrader could be serious, sensitive and introspective when the situation required. It still has to haunt him – as it does much of NASCAR nation – that Schrader’s car was the one Dale Earnhardt collided with at the 2001 Daytona 500. Schrader went over to check on Earnhardt’s condition but immediately called for further medical assistance when he saw the window net didn’t come down on its own.

Schrader took a hard line look at the safety of NASCAR as it was and where it needed to go to improve; the awful nature of that day has propelled the sanctioning body to make the safety enhancements it has over the last dozen years.

On track, even this year, Schrader’s still remained competitive. He captured the pole position for the inaugural NASCAR Truck race on dirt at Eldora in July and has occasionally punched above his car’s weight with Stoddard’s operation. Schrader has a best finish of 27th at Bristol in the fall, which is decent enough given the machinery, if far from a great result overall.

Personally, I’ll always have the memory of a flight to Charlotte in 2001, and seeing Schrader riding in coach only a few rows ahead of me. He was all too happy to chat about racing for a few minutes and sign an autograph. It made an indelible impact on a kid, especially as most of today’s NASCAR stars take private jets to tracks and stay in their motorhomes once they arrive at the track.

Perhaps his Cup career never reached the stratospheric heights of some of his Hendrick teammates, but that doesn’t mean Schrader will leave with any regrets. He’s won races, cracked jokes, delivered insightful TV analysis, and made fans based on his friendly, good-natured disposition all along the way.

And I’m pretty damn sure this is not going to be the last time Schrader puts on his helmet and tightens the belts. Just head to your nearest dirt or short track, and there’s a good chance he’ll be there.

As nature intended.

Latest Posts
  1. Hawksworth, Filippi score solid top-10s to open season at St. Petersburg

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    HawkStp15 AP

    Hawksworth, Filippi impress on opening outings with their new teams in St. Petersburg.

  2. Experience trumps youth on IndyCar’s opening weekend with aero kits

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    JPMSTPwin AP

    IndyCar’s “old guard” reigned in St. Petersburg, as the new manufacturer aero kits debuted.

  3. Moto GP: Rossi wins opening-round thriller in Qatar

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    MotoGP Qatar Getty Images

    Victory number 70 of the Italian’s remarkable Moto GP career.

  4. Ecclestone considering creation of all-female grand prix series

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Practice Getty Images

    However, Williams test driver Susie Wolff believes that women should be reaching F1 in a more organic way.

  5. IndyCar: Bourdais opens strong for KVSH; Coletti impresses despite late stop for KV

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    SebStp AP

    KVSH’s Bourdais gets result after a consistent drive; KV’s Coletti stars but fades after late race splash-and-dash for fuel.

  6. St. Petersburg notes: Alberico, Eidson, Beretta, Jenner score Sunday wins

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Photo: Pro Mazda Photo: Pro Mazda

    Pro Mazda, USF2000, Pirelli World Challenge, SST roundup from St. Petersburg.

  7. Chevrolet teams dominate IndyCar’s season opener, new aero kit era

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    ChevySTPdomination AP

    Chevrolet aero kits dominate on debut at St. Petersburg.

  8. Ericsson frustrated to spin out early in Malaysia

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Marcus Ericsson AP

    Swedish driver was fighting in the points before spinning off into the gravel on lap three in Malaysia.

  9. Wolff surprised by Ferrari win, but defends Mercedes strategy calls

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Australian F1 Grand Prix - Previews Getty Images

    Wolff defends the decision to fit Lewis Hamilton with hard tires at his final pit stop.

  10. NHRA: Jack Beckman (54 races), Larry Morgan (120 races) snap lengthy winless streaks in 4-Wide Nationals

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    nhra four-wide nationals

    Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Larry Morgan (Pro Stock) broke lengthy winless streaks in Sunday’s finals of the 4-Wide Nationals in Concord, N.C.

  11. Montoya’s evolution evident after statement victory in St. Pete

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT

    JPMSTPwin2 AP

    The year-on-year evolution of JPM showcases a driver still getting even better.

  12. Jeans and Ice Cream: Will Power’s brother live tweets IndyCar season opener

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Will Power, Will Power,

    Will Power’s brother brings the jokes while live tweeting Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

  13. Power dominates another St. Pete race from pole, but reflective post-race

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:53 PM EDT

    WillSTPwin AP

    Close but no cigar, but still a very good day for Will Power in the IndyCar opener at St. Petersburg.

  14. IndyCar: Tony Kanaan breaks up Penske’s quartet with third place finish

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:27 PM EDT

    Tony Kanaan Tony Kanaan

    Tony Kanaan earns second podium in a row while thwarting potential sweep by Penske.

  15. Montoya ekes out win in St. Petersburg season opener

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT

    JPMSTPwin AP

    Juan Pablo Montoya emerges up front after beating teammate Will Power on pit stops, and then holds off a final challenge.

  16. Will Power, debris dominate halfway through Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:14 PM EDT

    Will Power, Will Power,

    Will Power led a caution filled Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after 55 laps.

  17. Indy Lights: Ed Jones doubles up in St. Petersburg

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:23 PM EDT

    Photo: Indy Lights Photo: Indy Lights

    Ed Jones wins again in St. Petersburg, to complete an Indy Lights weekend sweep.

  18. What to watch for: IndyCar at St. Petersburg

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    W2W4stp AP

    IndyCar is racing today, at long last. Here’s what to watch for.

  19. Malaysian Grand Prix signs three-year contract extension

    Mar 29, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia Getty Images

    F1 will continue to visit the Sepang International Circuit until 2018 after a deal was signed on Sunday.

  20. Rahal leads St. Petersburg afternoon warmup

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:52 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Graham Rahal breaks up the Penske juggernaut and leads IndyCar warmup at St. Petersburg.