Nov 14, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT
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.
Jul 27, 2014, 7:52 PM EDT
A world of differences make it impossible to weigh Jeff Gordon’s accomplishments at Indy against those of A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr., and Michael Schumacher.
Jul 27, 2014, 6:52 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Gordon gave himself an early 43rd birthday present with Sunday’s Brickyard 400 win. Kyle Larson also gave himself an early birthday present – his 22nd will be Thursday – with a solid seventh-place finish in his first Brickyard.
Jul 27, 2014, 6:13 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS – It wasn’t quite the 1-2-3 finish they might have hoped for, but it was almost just as good for Joe Gibbs Racing’s three drivers in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch finished second to winner Jeff Gordon, followed by Denny Hamlin in third and Matt Kenseth was fourth.
Jul 27, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT
Rowdy continues his strong performance as of late with another P2 at Indianapolis.
Jul 27, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Kasey Kahne led a race-high 70 laps, but lost the Brickyard 400 lead to Jeff Gordon on a restart with 16 laps to go and faded to sixth.
Jul 27, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS – It was an oldie but goodie performance as Jeff Gordon – seven days short of his 43rd birthday – rallied late to win Sunday’s 21st Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Jul 27, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
One final round-up from the Hungaroring following Daniel Ricciardo’s supreme victory.
Jul 27, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
A broken rear axle ended Danica Patrick’s day prematurely in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Jul 27, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT
Strategy plays have been plentiful in the first half of today’s race at Indianapolis.
Jul 27, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Defending world champion has a quiet race at the Hungaroring; now 43 points behind Ricciardo in the drivers’ championship.
Jul 27, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Briton was asked twice to let Rosberg past, but he defied team orders on both occasions.
Jul 27, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT
“I have a deal moving forward. I can’t announce it yet. When all those pieces come together, it’ll be announced and we’ll talk about it.” – Edwards
Jul 27, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Big crashes for both Perez and Ericsson, but luckily neither suffered any injuries.
Jul 27, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Best result of the season for Ferrari with Alonso second and Kimi Raikkonen P6.
Jul 27, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
By making announcement hours before Brickyard 400, team owner Jack Roush didn’t seem to do Edwards any favors.
Jul 27, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Championship lead shrinks by three points after finishing half a second behind Hamilton at the flag.
Jul 27, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Cuts the gap to Nico Rosberg by three points, leaving the gap at just eleven for the summer break.
Jul 27, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT
Red Bull driver won a sensational grand prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.
Jul 27, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT
Roush Fenway Racing announces that its 2015 Sprint Cup driver lineup will feature Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne.
Jul 27, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT
Australian driver claims a sensational win for Red Bull, the second of his F1 career.