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. Tyler Reddick picks up Texas pole for tonight’s NASCAR Trucks race

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    WinStar World Casino & Resort 350 - Practice Getty Images

    Reddick captures his second Truck pole in the last three races.

  2. Hamilton inches away from Rosberg to top FP2 at COTA

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    British driver finishes just 0.003 seconds ahead of Rosberg in FP2, equating to just 6.7 inches around the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

  3. Seeing red: Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy gets a new look for Texas (VIDEO)

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    AAA Texas 500 - Practice Getty Images

    The six-time Sprint Cup champion is driving the No. 48 Lowe’s “Red Vest” Chevrolet this weekend.

  4. Raikkonen: Return to Ferrari “100% the right decision”

    Oct 31, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews Getty Images

    Finnish driver has endured a difficult return to Maranello in 2014 after five years away.

  5. Late lap puts Brian Vickers atop first Sprint Cup practice at Texas

    Oct 31, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    AAA Texas 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Chase competitors Kevin Harvick and points leader Jeff Gordon crack the Top 5 speeds.

  6. WATCH LIVE: FP2 for the United States Grand Prix

    Oct 31, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Practice Getty Images

    Can Lewis Hamilton double up in the second practice session in Austin? Join us from 3p ET to find out.

  7. Matt Kenseth still remorseful over Martinsville wreck with Kevin Harvick

    Oct 31, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Kenseth says the only way he’d feel a little better about it is if Harvick manages to make the Championship Race.

  8. Sebastian Vettel to start United States GP from pit lane

    Oct 31, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Practice Getty Images

    FIA confirms that the German driver has taken a sixth complete power unit, and will have to start the race from the pit lane at COTA.

  9. Chris Buescher tops first Nationwide practice at Texas

    Oct 31, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Kentucky Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    Ford drivers take the top three spots in opening Nationwide practice.

  10. Bottas confident improved 2015 campaign possible for Williams

    Oct 31, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS Getty Images

    Despite exceeding everyone’s expectations in 2014, Valtteri Bottas feels that the team can continue its upward trend next season.

  11. Hamilton quickest in first practice for United States GP

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    HamiltonFP1COTA Getty Images

    Two-time US GP winner makes the best possible start to his race weekend by topping FP1 in Austin.

  12. Joey Logano goes for Texas sweep, berth in Sprint Cup title race this weekend

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:14 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Logano’s currently in position to advance to the final battle at Homestead, but he says he’ll stay aggressive this weekend at Texas.

  13. VIDEO: Behind the scenes at Red Bull, 24 hours before a GP weekend

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews Getty Images

    Red Bull takes you behind-the-scenes in the lead-up to this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

  14. Austin FP1 features new helmets, liveries and bits and pieces

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    COTAstars AP

    Various updates coming to portions of the grid this weekend, starting in FP1.

  15. Mario Andretti gets the USGP weekend started with COTA Twitter takeover

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Italy F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Mario Andretti takes time out of a busy schedule for fan Q&A for Circuit of the Americas.

  16. This weekend, Helio Castroneves on sidelines as girlfriend runs NYC Marathon

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    The Blacks' Annual Gala 2014 Getty Images

    Adriana Henao is running to raise money for actor Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization and The Long Run to Haiti.

  17. WATCH LIVE: FP1 for the United States GP

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    F1 US Grand Prix Auto Racing AP

    Watch first practice from COTA live on Live Extra from 11a ET today.

  18. NASCAR: Elliott Sadler jumping to Roush for 2015 XFINITY Series season

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Credit: Roush Fenway Racing Credit: Roush Fenway Racing

    Former Sprint Cup veteran will bring his OneMain Financial sponsorship with him.

  19. From GP3 to F1, it’s been quite a year for Daniil Kvyat

    Oct 31, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia Getty Images

    After just one year in F1, Kvyat will be replacing four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull next season. Not bad going!

  20. Extreme Speed gearing up for overseas WEC debut

    Oct 31, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports

    Extreme Speed takes its HPDs to Shanghai for the FIA WEC race.

Video from NASCAR America

Who has the best chance in Texas?
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Harvick (1248)
  2. J. Logano (1174)
  3. T. Stewart (1137)
  4. J. McMurray (1122)
  5. D. Hamlin (894)