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.
Mar 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Dutch youngster scores the best F1 qualifying result for a teenager in 54 years on Saturday in Malaysia.
Mar 28, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Spanish driver will make his second debut for McLaren from 18th position on the grid tomorrow.
Mar 28, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
British driver explains the challenge of judging your qualifying lap in the wet after securing pole position in Malaysia on Saturday.
Mar 28, 2015, 7:49 AM EDT
Merhi and Stevens miss the 107% time required to qualify in Malaysia, but are granted dispensation by the FIA stewards.
Vettel hoping for more rain on Sunday after scoring Ferrari’s first front-row start in two years (VIDEO)
Mar 28, 2015, 7:30 AM EDT
Felipe Massa was the last driver to start on the front row of the grid for Ferrari, lining up second for the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Mar 28, 2015, 7:10 AM EDT
German driver cannot improve with his final lap in Q3, leaving him third on the grid behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
Mar 28, 2015, 4:45 AM EDT
Could a thunderstorm rain on Mercedes parade? Join us for qualifying from 5a ET today.
Mar 28, 2015, 3:06 AM EDT
German driver edges out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in final practice at Sepang.
Mar 28, 2015, 1:30 AM EDT
FP3 for the Malaysian Grand Prix rolls off at 2 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra.
Mar 27, 2015, 7:08 PM EDT
Rain washed out Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying for this weekend’s 6th annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.
Mar 27, 2015, 6:03 PM EDT
No IndyCar second practice, and other notes from St. Petersburg.
Mar 27, 2015, 5:50 PM EDT
Michael Johnson in ICU after practice accident at St. Petersburg.
Mar 27, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Are Red Bull’s recent quibbles about Mercedes’ dominance well-reasoned, or is it simply a case of sour grapes?
Mar 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Marciello becomes the first Italian driver in four years to take part in an F1 weekend session.
Mar 27, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
2014 GP2 champion will take part in his first F1 grand prix weekend session in Shanghai.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT
Will Power leads IndyCar’s opening practice session of 2015.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
However, Renault could pull out of F1 altogether in the near future should it decide that its involvement is no longer viable.
Mar 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Hot conditions make for difficult running during practice on Friday.
Mar 27, 2015, 11:06 AM EDT
Wilson and Andretti – finally confirmed.
- Hamilton delighted after claiming 40th career pole (VIDEO) 0
- Hamilton tames wet conditions to grab pole in Malaysia 0
- Rosberg closes out Malaysian GP practice fastest 0
- NHRA: Rain washes out Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying four 4-Wide Nationals 2
- The Equalization Conundrum: Should F1 put sport to one side in favor of ‘the show’? 5
- Practice setbacks leave Hamilton “quite a bit off” in Malaysia (VIDEO) 2
- Verizon IndyCar Series 2015 preseason content roundup 0