KEN SCHRADER, NO. 36 M&M'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: THIS IS AN OFF WEEK, BUT YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE OFF, ARE YOU? "Well, obviously, I could be if I wanted to. But I want to go play somewhere, so we're going to Joplin, Mo., to run Friday night. ...
KEN SCHRADER, NO. 36 M&M'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
THIS IS AN OFF WEEK, BUT YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE OFF, ARE YOU? "Well, obviously, I could be if I wanted to. But I want to go play somewhere, so we're going to Joplin, Mo., to run Friday night. It's a World of Outlaw show. They run modifieds in companion with us. We're going to run a little modified. The World of Outlaws come to us in Missouri Saturday night. We're going to go there and run the modified there, be nervous, count people, hope we have enough people to pay the purse."
DESPITE THE FACT YOU'RE CURRENTLY 32ND IN POINTS, ARE YOU FEELING PRETTY GOOD ABOUT THINGS? "Like you say, we're feeling absolutely terrible about 32nd in points. But the way the car's run, I've been very happy with it. The worst we have run was last week at Bristol, and other than that it's been decent everywhere. We were a little bit weak in Atlanta, but other than that, it's been real good. So we're still 32nd, so that's what we've got to dig out of."
DO YOU GET A BETTER APPRECIATION AS SOMEONE WHO PROMOTES RACES THAN YOU DID BEFORE THAT AS A DRIVER? "Maybe from when I first started. But since I've been NASCAR Winston Cup racing, I've run so many tracks and have become good friends with a bunch of promoters. I didn't go into the deal at St. Louis really thinking it was going to be a piece of cake. I pretty much knew what we were up against. It's been a struggle.
"Now, this is the start of our seventh year. The first two years were a little bit grim, and then it's just continued to really grow pretty quick since then. Kind of expected what I was going to be up against going in. But I really have enjoyed it."
AS A PROMOTER, IS IT TOUGH TO INVEST MONEY AT YOUR FACILITY FOR THINGS THAT ARE ONLY FOR THE FANS? "That's what we think has been -- what's been really helping us at our little track there, we've been paving parking lots. We paved all the walkways in front of the grandstands. We've worked on the restrooms. Just a bunch of stuff for the fan comfort.
"It does, it costs a fortune. But every time we do something -- we've had good racing since we started the track, but every time we do something that's a little more fan-friendly, we really get the compliments on that. That's what we think has been our biggest gain."
HOW HARD IS IT TO BE THE PROMOTER, HOW HARD IS IT TO SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM BEING A RACER? WHAT DO YOU TELL YOUR LOCAL MANAGEMENT IN LISTENING TO THE RACERS? "I don't see where the local racers are any different than the people inside the NASCAR Winston Cup garage. They all came from there, have wound up in the Cup shop. You think there's not a lot of complaining going on in there, you should spend a little more time. I just don't really see where it's any different.
"If we're not winning every race, we're complaining. That stays the same throughout your career."
ARE YOU A FIRM BELIEVER IN TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY? "I think everyone pretty much tends to keep a little bit of score and remember things. If somebody has been, you know, a little rough with you before, I think you tend to remember that, yes."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY? "It was a lot better last year. Now they repaved it again. Usually you don't repave stuff because everything is wonderful. Usually there's a problem, and that causes you repave it.
"I think you'll see that most of us don't prefer new pavement because the new pavement tends to be pretty much one groove and kind of a follow-the-leader racing till the pavement gets some time on it and enough races that it gives up a little bit of traction so you can move around on the racetrack a little more. Like Atlanta when they first paved it, it was flat-out right around the bottom, and now you see excellent racing there, using all the racetrack.
"I think as far as the quality of the show, it might not be as good this year as it was last year, but it will just take a while and it will get back."
WHAT ABOUT THESE NEW GOODYEAR TIRES ON THAT WELL-SEASONED PAVEMENT? HOW DO YOU THINK THEY'RE GOING TO DO ON THOSE TRACKS THAT HAVE BEEN WELL-SEASONED COMPARED TO A PLACE LIKE TEXAS, FRESHLY SEALED AND REPAVED? "We just came off the concrete at Bristol. They did excellent at Darlington and Rockingham, which is two of the places where the tires slow up, but they never give up. You can just keep running them. I mean, Goodyear brings a good tire for us every place. I think they're doing excellent, especially at the tracks that are more seasoned."
CAN YOU COMPARE THIS YEAR'S ROOKIE CROP WITH THE GUYS YOU HAVE RUN AGAINST IN THE PAST? "I don't know about comparing against guys in the past. But, boy, we got some strong ones this year. Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman are both just doing excellent. I didn't really know what to expect out of Jimmie. In his NASCAR Busch deal, he was good, but he didn't excel in the NASCAR Busch Series. Tony Stewart didn't excel in the NASCAR Busch Series. As soon as he got in the NASCAR Winston Cup car, he took off. Ryan Newman has been fast in everything he's ever driven. I knew he'd be solid coming in. They're both with excellent teams. I really just enjoy watching them and racing with them."
ARE YOU SURPRISED how quickly they have excelled? "No, not really, because when you come into NASCAR Winston Cup now, someone like that, you're a rookie in name only. Jimmie had run the NASCAR Busch Series a bunch. Ryan had a lot of laps on him, pretty extensive program with Penske and NASCAR Busch racing. Even though you're 'a rookie,' they still have that experience now that maybe a lot of us didn't have when we came in years ago."
HOW DO YOU ANALYZE THE SEASON? HOW WEIRD OF A SEASON DO YOU THINK IT HAS BEEN SO FAR? "I don't see where it's been any different than any other year. Someone always comes out of the box really strong. I mean, no reason to think that Sterling and the Ganassi team wouldn't be good right off the bat. I just don't see where it really has been that much different than years past."
CAN YOU PINPOINT A LITTLE MORE ABOUT WHAT THE STRUGGLES HAVE BEEN FOR YOUR TEAM? "Well, at Daytona, one of our champions and one of our super heroes run into one another and took out a bunch of us. At Rockingham, we qualified second, weren't that good, but were going to finish somewhere 10th to 12th, lost an engine with 15 laps to go. At Vegas, we ran in the top 10, got run into, cut a left rear tire, pitted under green. At Darlington -- big wreck, 11 of us. Then Atlanta and -- Atlanta, I pitted out of the box. Bristol, we were off. It was our first run. We finished 22nd. We had a stud fall out of the left rear hub which we had to get back in. Boys did a good job, but started us at the end of the longest line, and that's when we had our longest green flag run, got a lap down there."
YOU'RE DUE FOR SOME GOOD LUCK IN TEXAS? "Nobody is ever due for good luck. Sometimes you bring the luck on yourself. We don't need good luck to do good. We'll just take the absence of bad luck."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT KIND OF DIFFERENCE IT MAKES FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON AND RYAN NEWMAN TO COME ONTO SUCH WELL-ESTABLISHED AND TOP-RUNNING ORGANIZATIONS? "It shortens your learning curve immensely when you already have the equipment. Before I went NASCAR Winston Cup racing, I tested at Daytona. I hadn't been to those places. We used to go to Martinsville and qualify on Thursday, then Junie and the boys would go home. I'd say, 'We're not going to practice?' They'd say, 'You get 500 laps.' You know, when you have those resources available to you, it helps a ton.
"You don't get to pick the team you come in with. You know, hopefully you just have the opportunity. I mean, this goes back to your regular Saturday night track. You're just wanting to drive. You just try to pick the best stuff that's offered to you and available to you.
"But, you know, it's not like you get to stand up there and just pick which team you're going to drive for. Whatever you have, you make the best of it."
WHERE SHOULD THE LINE BE DRAWN WITH REGARD TO THE TYPES OF ALTERCATIONS WE SAW THIS WEEKEND AT BRISTOL? "A line drawn as far as what NASCAR does? I think we have NASCAR's view. Do you think the punishment was correct? Where do you think there is a line where it may be too much or where it's okay when drivers battle after the fact?
"Well, I don't -- we just can't be doing it, period. The pit road stuff, especially the Cup race, I mean, we got a lot of people on pit road, especially after racing. When you're crashing cars on pit road, it's easy enough to get hurt in this sport anyway as a crew member, running across there with the cars coming down pit road. But after the race, to get hit by a car or something like that for something that's uncalled for, I mean, that needs to be addressed, like NASCAR did.
"The deal with Harvick Saturday, it was kind of exciting. We just kind of blew it off. You know, it's so loud there, it's hard to talk to somebody. He wanted to get up real close to him to make sure he heard what he said. There weren't any punches thrown or anything. It could have got real ugly, real quick. NASCAR is going to take care of that however they see fit."
HAVE YOU EVER LOST YOUR TEMPER? HAS IT BEEN DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO KEEP IT CONTAINED? "I try to. But, yes, I have lost it. I've been in the [NASCAR] trailer. I think the most I ever had to spend was 10 grand ($10,000 fine. But I had my time in the trailer, too."