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. Extreme physical demands of Singapore take their toll on drivers

    Sep 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Singapore F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Kvyat and Magnussen both go without water for much of the race, leaving them dehydrated following the race.

  2. Rosberg reflects on a tough day in Singapore (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore Getty Images

    German driver lost the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time in four months.

  3. Reports: 2015 Sprint Cup rules package expected to be released on Tuesday

    Sep 21, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Kyle Busch AP

    Less downforce? More horsepower? Or something else entirely? It sounds like we won’t have to wait much longer on what the 2015 Sprint Cup rules package will bring.

  4. Ricciardo: I expected to be faster today

    Sep 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore Getty Images

    Australian driver enjoys a great deal of home support in Singapore, but feels that Red Bull should have been closer to Mercedes.

  5. Hamilton: Mercedes’ reliability problems a concern (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore Getty Images

    Singapore GP winner admits that he had worries about the reliability of his car following Nico Rosberg’s retirement.

  6. NASCAR: LP Dumoulin captures Canadian Tire Series crown by 3 points

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

    Credit: NASCAR Credit: NASCAR

    J.R. Fitzpatrick won last night’s season finale, but Dumoulin’s ninth-place finish enables him to claim the championship in Canada’s top stock car series.

  7. Vergne equals best-ever F1 result with late charge

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Qualifying Getty Images

    14th to sixth in the final stages of the race caps off a great race for Jean-Eric Vergne.

  8. Vettel delighted to score fifth straight Singapore podium

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore Getty Images

    German driver misses out on fourth straight win at Marina Bay, but pulls a great result out of the bag to move back up to fifth in the drivers’ championship.

  9. Re-taking the championship lead, the tide has turned for Lewis Hamilton

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore Getty Images

    The British driver has completed a great turnaround – a swing of 32 points in three races – to re-take the lead of the championship today.

  10. Hamilton rules in Singapore to re-take championship lead as Rosberg retires

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT

    Singapore F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    An electrical glitch sidelines Rosberg, but Hamilton is made to fight for his second victory in Singapore after a lengthy safety car period.

  11. Rosberg forced to retire in Singapore after electrical glitch

    Sep 21, 2014, 8:35 AM EDT

    Singapore F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Rosberg’s championship hopes take a huge hit before a lap has even been run in Singapore.

  12. WATCH LIVE: 2014 Singapore Grand Prix on NBCSN from 7.30am ET

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Qualifying Getty Images

    All of the action from Singapore as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg go head-to-head under the lights of Marina Bay.

  13. Starting grid for the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Qualifying Getty Images

    Lewis Hamilton edged out Nico Rosberg by the narrowest of margins in qualifying to secure his sixth pole position of the season.

  14. VIDEO: Behind the scenes at Red Bull, 24 hours after an F1 race

    Sep 21, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

    Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Qualifying Getty Images

    Red Bull gives you a unique insight into what goes on at a race team’s factory in the aftermath of a grand prix weekend.

  15. Brendan Gaughan takes lead with 6 laps to go, wins Nationwide at Kentucky

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT

    Bristol Motor Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    A wild final restart opened the door for Gaughan to out-hustle Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon late on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

  16. IndyCar: Kanaan wins Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am charity kart race (VIDEO)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    KanaanTMSP1-2 Getty Images

    More than a dozen former and current IndyCar drivers take part in the special event that honors the late two-time Indy 500 champ and raises money for Alzheimer’s research.

  17. NASCAR: Tough Kentucky track awaits Regan Smith this evening

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Kentucky Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    With seven races left in the Nationwide schedule, can Smith start making up ground on teammate Chase Elliott in the championship?

  18. IMSA: Ganassi holds on for COTA win; Viper, 8Star big winners

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:11 PM EDT

    PruettCOTAWin Getty Images

    Ganassi Riley-Ford, 8Star Motorsports, Vipers win in COTA.

  19. Wendy Venturini to become first female to call Sprint Cup race on radio Sunday at New Hampshire

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy WendyVenturini.com) (Photo courtesy WendyVenturini.com)

    When Wendy Venturini walks into the press box at New Hampshire Motor Speedway prior to Sunday’s Sylvania 300 Sprint Cup race, she will become part of NASCAR history.

  20. Red Bull GRC: Scott Speed scores third win of 2014 in Los Angeles Race 1

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT

    GRCLogo

    The Red Bull GRC championship tightens dramatically after the first race of the weekend in L.A.

Video from NASCAR America

Which longshot will advance in Chase?
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. B. Keselowski (1983)
  2. J. Gordon (1460)
  3. K. Harvick (1376)
  4. M. Crafton (1210)
  5. K. Busch (1148)