Skip to content

Schrader set for likely last NASCAR Cup start in Homestead

Nov 14, 2013, 10:00 AM EST

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. NASCAR: Drive For Diversity class of ’15 announced; 40,000 new seats for Speedweeks

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:30 PM EST

    nascar logo 2014 Getty Images

    Devon Amos, Jay Beasley, Collin Cabre, Natalie Decker, Kenzie Ruston, and Dylan Smith part of this year’s D4D program; an update on Daytona Rising renovation project.

  2. Hendrick Motorsports pit coach leaves sport

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:22 PM EST

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    Greg Morin, a pit coach overseeing the crews of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., is leaving his position after January.

  3. NASCAR outlaws the practice of flared fender side skirts

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:08 PM EST

    NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O'Donnell Getty Images

    NASCAR has outlawed the practice of teams manipulating — or flaring out — of rear side skirts to produce an aerodynamic advantage.

  4. F1: Bottas, then Massa in new Williams FW37 at Jerez test

    Jan 26, 2015, 1:25 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi Getty Images

    The Grove gang reveals its lineup for the first F1 preseason test of 2015.

  5. NASCAR: GameStop in for 10 races on Erik Jones’ XFINITY ride with Gibbs

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    DAV 200 - Honoring America's Veterans Getty Images

    Video game retail company continues support of Joe Gibbs Racing’s XFINITY Series program.

  6. F1: Ferrari reveals official name for 2015 car – the SF15-T

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:30 AM EST

    Italy F1 Ferrari Vettel AP

    Official launch of the new car is set for Friday.

  7. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett to join NASCAR coverage on NBC, NBCSN

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:09 AM EST

    Dale Jarrett Getty 2014 Getty Images

    NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett will join NBC and NBCSN’s coverage of NASCAR in 2015, it was announced Monday.

  8. National Motorsports Press Association honors Lynda Petty, Kevin Harvick and others for service, achievement

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:31 AM EST

    Richard and Lynda Petty AP

    Richard Petty’s late wife, Lynda, and 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick were among those who were honored during Sunday’s National Motorsports Press Association annual awards banquet.

  9. F1: Lotus releases images of its new Mercedes-powered E23

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:10 AM EST

    Credit: Lotus F1 Team Credit: Lotus F1 Team

    Lotus hopes to put a less-than-competitive 2014 to rest with the help of its new car.

  10. NASCAR Media Tour begins today, but drivers still in idle

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:36 AM EST

    GoDaddy Bowl - Toledo v Arkansas State Getty Images

    A long layoff has drivers such as Danica Patrick ready ‘to take out this aggression somewhere right now.’

  11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ponders a 24-hour NASCAR race

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:33 PM EST

    Dale Jr. TaxSlayer Bowl 2015 Getty Images

    A big fan of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. posed a rather interesting question to his Twitter followers: Could NASCAR ever do — let alone consider — a 24-hour race?

  12. NASCAR: John Hunter Nemechek, XFINITY champ Chase Elliott win at SpeedFest

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:34 PM EST

    Lucas Oil 200 - Practice Getty Images

    Nemechek, Elliott victorious in late model doubleheader Sunday at Cordele, Ga.

  13. Site of previously planned NASCAR track in New York to finally be developed

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:00 PM EST

    nascar logo

    Land once earmarked for a new NASCAR track in New York will instead become a big box and manufacturing complex.

  14. ‘Do you get mad when your boyfriend wrecks you?’ Danica Patrick faces kids’ pressing questions

    Jan 25, 2015, 5:38 PM EST

    Credit: NASCAR Credit: NASCAR

    Patrick had fun Sunday taking part in a children’s Q-and-A session at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But she’s also ready to start her third full season of Sprint Cup racing.

  15. Jeff Gordon to serve as NASCAR TV analyst this season

    Jan 25, 2015, 4:44 PM EST

    Federated Auto Parts 400 Getty Images

    Gordon will be part of a rotation of driver analysts for Fox Sports’ coverage of the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2015.

  16. Renault director: We’re aiming for at least five F1 wins in 2015

    Jan 25, 2015, 3:42 PM EST

    Cyril Abiteboul AP

    Cyril Abiteboul also says Renault is pushing to cut Mercedes’ 2014 horsepower advantage in half by this year’s season opener.

  17. Jack Roush hung up on twice — and Jeff Gordon was gone

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:57 PM EST

    Jack Roush Getty Images

    Jack Roush isn’t used to being hung up on, but Jeff Gordon’s stepfather and business manager did so twice when the Cat in the Hat wanted to sign Gordon to drive a Ford in 1992.

  18. Ganassi’s No. 02 Riley-Ford Scores Rolex 24 Victory

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:22 PM EST

    02rolexwin AP

    Ganassi back on top at Rolex 24 at Daytona.

  19. Rolex extends 23-year sponsor role of Rolex 24 at Daytona

    Jan 25, 2015, 1:58 PM EST

    rolex 24 logo

    Rolex Watch USA will continue to sponsor the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a partnership that began 23 years ago, the watch company and Daytona International Speedway have announced.

  20. Bill Elliott: Ford passed on son Chase, but Hendrick and Chevy rode to the rescue

    Jan 25, 2015, 1:15 PM EST

    Bill and Chase Elliott PHX 2014 Getty Images

    Bill Elliott originally wanted son Chase in a Ford when he began his racing career. But when a deal couldn’t be worked out, the Elliott’s took a deal offered by Rick Hendrick and Chevrolet.

Video from NASCAR America

Gordon hesitant to call it 'retirement'
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Clements (1472)
  2. M. Waltrip (1457)
  3. B. Vickers (1448)
  4. K. Grala (1437)
  5. M. Lira (1316)