Every track is different, 'then there's Pocono'
Ken Schrader and the #49 Schwan's Home Service Dodge head to the 2.5-mile triangle known as Pocono (Pa.) International Raceway for Sunday's Pocono 500; the 14th race of the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup season.
Driver of the #49 Schwan's Home Service Dodge, Schrader is a native of Fenton, Mo. The busiest driver in major league motorsports, Schrader has raced and continues to race on virtually every type of speedway in virtually every type of race car. In 2005, Schrader plans to once again race over 100 races and throughout his career has raced at over 310 different racetracks around the nation. Schrader continues a winning career with BAM Racing, which fields the Schwan's Home Service team.
Of note: Schrader's ninth-place finish two weeks ago at Charlotte marked the first time a driver over 50 years old had scored a top 10 since Geoff Bodine at Daytona in 2002.
The team is owned by Beth Ann and Tony Morgenthau, investors from Coral Gables, Fla. Ms. Morgenthau, whose initials make up the name of the team -- BAM Racing -- is the only female car owner in motorsports to become involved without prior family connections. General manager Eddie Jones is a veteran of the NASCAR Nextel Cup wars, enjoying a championship career as a crew chief, mechanic and team leader. Crew chief David Hyder has over 20 years of racing experience both driving and as a chief mechanic.
The Schwan Food Company is a privately held manufacturer and marketer of fine frozen foods through its nationwide Schwan's Home Service home-delivery service, its Schwan's Consumer Brands North America retail grocery business, and its Schwan's Food Service Group foodservice unit. Headquartered in Marshall, Minn., Schwan's production and distribution activities in the United States and Europe employ 24,000 people. Among its well-known brands are Schwan's®, Tony's®, Red Baron®, Freschetta®, Pagoda®, Mrs. Smith's®, and Edwards®.
The thoughts of Schwan's Home Service Dodge driver Ken Schrader heading into Pocono:
"Pocono is unique in every sense of the word; its shape, its front straightaway, its scenery, location-- everything. The track's a triangle, but you don't think about that when you're out there. It's not like you're sitting in the car waiting for that fourth turn . . . and waiting and waiting and then going, 'Oh yeah.' The frontstretch is something else. Because of the length of the frontstretch, pit road and especially the pit stalls are some of the roomiest on the circuit. Some of the tracks we go to have very tight pit roads with small pit boxes, but Pocono is the exact opposite, and the crew guys appreciate that for sure.
"There are so many factors to consider at Pocono. Like every track we go to, you better have a car capable of staying near the bottom through the turns and really getting through the center. But, at Pocono, you have to worry about acceleration and getting off of turn three so that you get to full throttle down the front stretch as quickly as possible. There used to be a lot of different things teams could do to play with what gear they wanted to run there, but NASCAR's rules really limit that these days.
"When you get to turn one you're carrying about 200 miles per hour, so you better have good brakes. Believe me, we tried doing that without brakes a couple of years ago, and that wasn't fun. I remember going down into (turn) one and touching the brakes, and the car not slowing down. Something had broken and I couldn't stop. All I could do was aim the back towards the wall and hang on for the ride.
"Could Pocono's races be shortened? Probably. But, they aren't alone. There are a good number of tracks and races we run at that have races as long as Pocono. We've been running 500 miles at Pocono for a good while and personally it doesn't bother me. You think about it, that's really a mark of the Cup series; that we run a lot longer races than any other series. It's always been about endurance for both driver and machine.
"After a rough couple of races at Pocono two years ago, we bounced back last season. Still, not where we wanted to be, but we came away with this team's best finish there last July. Myself, I enjoy coming to Pocono. We've enjoyed success there before and won a couple of poles.
"It's a challenging place because it's something we aren't used to seeing each week. Every track we go to is different. Some are more different than others-- and then there's Pocono. We hope to keep this momentum going that the Schwan's Home Service team has been building over the past couple months. We seem to improve every week and at every track we go to from the previous performance. I'm looking for nothing different this week."