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. Roush Fenway Racing continues to look for sponsorship for Wallace

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:11 AM EST

    Bubba Wallace Bubba Wallace

    Roush Fenway Racing continues to look for sponsorship for Darrell Wallace Jr., but Wallace says he plans to run the full XFINITY season.

  2. Roush Fenway Racing looks for big rebound in 2015

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:04 AM EST

    jack roush 2015 AP

    Although there were a number of changes at Roush Fenway Racing, team co-owner Jack Roush believes things are on the right track for a big collective comeback from RFR in 2015.

  3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. channels Marshawn Lynch: ‘I’m just here so I won’t get fined’

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:06 AM EST

    Stenhouse Phoenix 2 2014 Getty Images

    Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tried to channel his inner Marshawn Lynch during Roush Fenway Racing’s segment of the NASCAR Media Tour on Wednesday.

  4. Tony Stewart buys All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:05 AM EST

    Hollywood Casino 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Stewart takes control of one of the country’s oldest sprint car leagues.

  5. NASCAR: Outcry causes GoDaddy to pull Super Bowl ad featuring Danica Patrick, puppy

    Jan 27, 2015, 10:41 PM EST

    Aaron's 312 Getty Images

    Negative backlash following ad’s premiere on Tuesday’s “Today” show leads to GoDaddy pulling it from Sunday’s big game.

  6. Indy Lights: Ed Jones leads Day 2 of Homestead road course test

    Jan 27, 2015, 8:55 PM EST

    Credit: IndyLights.com Credit: IndyLights.com

    The Lights contingent finish their two-day session on the Homestead road course before heading to the oval on Thursday.

  7. Sprint Cup champ Kevin Harvick: “I’m as comfortable as I’ve ever been”

    Jan 27, 2015, 7:12 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Steve Helber) Getty Images

    Following a dramatic Sprint Cup title victory in 2014, Harvick enters 2015 with less pressure – but not less motivated to continue his success.

  8. Gene Haas updates F1 team’s progress at NASCAR media tour

    Jan 27, 2015, 5:45 PM EST

    Gene Haas Formula One Press Conference Getty Images

    Gene Haas provides an update on his F1 team’s progress during NASCAR Media Tour.

  9. The King: NASCAR’s next great driver may be in XFINITY Series right now (video)

    Jan 27, 2015, 5:28 PM EST

    richard petty daytona rising 2014 Getty Images

    In a new promotional video for the XFINITY Series, Richard Petty says the next great NASCAR driver may be in the sport’s junior league right now.

  10. NFL legends join NASCAR stars in NBC Sports’ upcoming “Gridiron Challenge” (VIDEO)

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:58 PM EST

    nbcsports1 (1)

    Don’t miss this special event on Friday, Jan. 30, at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

  11. Kurt Busch reasserts what he said about ex: “What I said was under oath”

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:34 PM EST

    Kurt Busch Kurt Busch

    Kurt Busch says he’s unsure when a decision will be made in the protective hearing case sought by his ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll

  12. NHRA wants to give fans ‘Baptism by Nitro’ in 2015

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:22 PM EST

    (Image courtesy NHRA) (Image courtesy NHRA)

    In an effort to attract new drag racing fans, the National Hot Rod Association has embarked upon a new marketing and social media program for 2015: “Baptism by Nitro”, featuring the sport’s fastest cars, Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars.

  13. Danica Patrick enters final year of contract but wants to stay at Stewart-Haas

    Jan 27, 2015, 3:46 PM EST

    NASCAR Sprint Media Tour - Day 2 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour - Day 2

    Car owner Gene Haas confirms this is the final year of Danica Patrick’s contract but says he wants Patrick back.

  14. NASCAR: J.J. Yeley will be BK Racing’s primary driver in 2015

    Jan 27, 2015, 3:15 PM EST

    Sprint Showdown - Qualifying Getty Images

    Yeley ran the final seven races of 2014 in BK’s No. 83 Toyota.

  15. Cast your vote: Which SHR driver will improve most in ’15?

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:53 PM EST

    SHR lineup AP

    While teammate Kevin Harvick won the Sprint Cup championship in 2014, Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart all came up short. Which driver will bounce back the most in 2015?

  16. Danica Patrick: 2014 was a success to build upon for ’15

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:45 PM EST

    Danica Patrick AP

    While some media may think 2014 was a sub-par year for her, Danica Patrick believes last season was just the opposite, a season of growth and improvement that she hopes to extend into the 2015 Sprint Cup campaign.

  17. Al Unser to be recognized at Legends Day this May

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:15 PM EST

    Photo: IMS Photo: IMS

    Al Unser Sr. gets a day of honor at IMS this month of May.

  18. NASCAR, RTA are communicating but not commenting much about it

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:08 PM EST

    Party in the Poconos 400 - Practice Getty Images

    RTA chairman Rob Kauffman deflected several questions Tuesday about the organization, which represents virtually every team in NASCAR’s premier series.

  19. Kurt Busch: Indy 500 return is “something we haven’t talked about”

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:05 PM EST

    Kurt Busch AP

    Former Sprint Cup champ finished sixth in first ‘500’ appearance last year.

Video from NASCAR America

Why 2015 is a big year for Danica
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (2236)
  2. J. Clements (1722)
  3. K. Schrader (1718)
  4. K. Grala (1604)
  5. M. Lira (1523)