KEN SCHRADER (No. 49 Schwan's Home Service Dodge Charger) NOTE: Schrader, a 50-year-old veteran from Fenton, Mo., is scheduled to make his 661st career Cup start on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Schrader finished a season-best eighth...
KEN SCHRADER (No. 49 Schwan's Home Service Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Schrader, a 50-year-old veteran from Fenton, Mo., is scheduled to make his 661st career Cup start on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Schrader finished a season-best eighth earlier this season at Talladega, and he finished 10th in July at Daytona. In his third season behind the wheel of the BAM Racing Dodge Charger, Schrader has four career victories and his first one came at Talladega on July 31, 1988. Scheduled to make his 42nd career start at Talladega on Sunday, Schrader has five top fives and 11 top-10 finishes at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
OPENING COMMENTS "We started way in the back at Talladega and kinda hung back there for awhile and then decided we needed to see how far up there we could get. We got up there just far enough that when everything broke loose and they all started to running into one another I was one of the last guys through and I still had some options. We made it through and ended up with a good run."
COMMENT ON THE CHASE "I'm so proud of Rusty and Mark Martin right now for how they're doing in The Chase. When they announced The Chase format last year I was not in favor of it. I didn't think our system needed to be changed, but I converted over to a fan of it real quick. I think it's really has put a lot of energy into our sport. I know I got caught up into it just seeing who was going to be sixth through 10th when you were watching everybody fifth through 15th in points, just seeing who was going to get in. There's no telling with eight races to go who's looking good and who's not."
COMMENT ON RACING IN THE MIDWEST "There are so many tracks through Kansas and Missouri and Iowa. I grew up in the Indiana-Illinois area running all those tracks. I don't think it's just Midwest. I think it's regions throughout the whole country, and as the sport has grown as far as Nextel Cup, these drivers, they look for them everywhere now and we've got drivers from everywhere now. Because of that everybody has come more aware of short tracks around the country and how many good tracks there are. I think for sure the St. Louis area would like to have (the Kansas City) facility. What they've got there is a nice facility, but it's not a Nextel Cup level facility. When I go home Kansas City is plenty close enough. I call that home, too. We probably don't need one in St. Louis and Kansas City. We're better off having that one in Kansas City."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE TALLADEGA TO SOMEONE WHO'S NEVER SEEN IT? "Wow! It's just huge, by far the biggest place we go. Daytona is two and a half miles and Talladega is 2.66. Daytona is banked 31 and Talladega is banked 33. You would think that there's not that much difference, but it's phenomenal the difference between Daytona and Talladega, just the width of the racing surface, too. I went to Daytona the first time and wow, this place is really narrow. What were they thinking when they built this, knowing they built it in '59? You go to Talladega and you cannot believe. It's like going down a four-lane interstate versus a two-lane highway. It gives you the impression of being that much bigger."
COMMENT ON THE PRESENT QUALITY OF RACING AND HOW YOU SAW KYLE BUSCH RACE HIS TEAMMATE JIMMIE JOHNSON AT DOVER "Well, Kyle sure enough didn't give it to him. He didn't get jammed up there an inch away and try to get him loose or anything like that. He got up there a foot or two away, but he didn't go out of his way like maybe someone from a different team (would have). So he gave a little bit of respect there to a teammate. Maybe in that situation he could have given a little bit more, but that was good, hard racing. I think the sport in general has really caught a bad rap anymore. They say the racing is not as good. They've all got opinions, but my opinion on that is the reason the racing doesn't appear as good anymore, which I think it's a lot better, but I guess if you're laying on the couch the difference between the first place car and the last place car isn't 25 mph anymore or 20 mph like it used to be at Dover. People are passing people all the time. Now the difference in speed is so close and everyone is going the same speed it makes it harder and harder to pass. The competition level is a lot more intense, and it's a lot more competitive than it's ever been. Maybe some people look at that and say they're not passing like they used to. Well, they may not be passing as much as they used to but let me tell you what they're racing a heck of a lot harder than they ever did."
WOULD YOU GIVE IT A GOOD RATING RIGHT NOW? "I would give it a good rating, yes, most definitely, because I know how hard it is out there, and I know how hard you've got to fight for every car you pass and how competitive it is."
COMMENT ON SINGLE CAR TEAMS "I don't see any advantage to it. We can obviously run with less budget because there's only one car, but we can't run as competitive as the multi-car teams. We come in after practice at Dover and we've got no teammates to go sit down with and debrief and see what they did compared to what we did. Mr. Hendrick being one of the first and Junior Johnson before him it took awhile to get the formula worked out to make it work, but they have definitely got it worked out now. If you were a single car team and had their budget, instead of having 35 people work on your team and you could have 120, but that still wouldn't work because it wouldn't give you the track time with the other cars, so there are no advantages to it. We're definitely working toward coming up with a multi-car team at BAM Racing, but you have to have the funding in place first."
ARE ACCIDENTS MORE CRUCIAL FOR SINGLE CAR TEAMS? "That would be from team to team. Jimmie Johnson has got all his cars lined up, and I guess if he ran out he could go grab one from someone else, but our Schwan's team, we've got brand new racecars lined up. We've got plenty of them, and I've got good cars built by David Hyder and all the guys in the last year and a half. As far as equipment, that's not really the problem."
HOW BIG OF A DISADVANTAGE IN REGARDS OF TESTING IS A SINGLE CAR TEAM? "Jimmie Johnson was thanking the 5 guys in victory lane because they went and tested at Dover and shared that information with him like you're supposed to and they wound up running 1-2. You can't test at every place. You're only allowed so many tests, so it's a tremendous advantage. The Hendrick team has actually four times more tests than we do. These multi-car and single-car deals have been talked a lot about. If you're a single-car team you've got a long road in front of you, and to get to the very front of that deal might be real hard, but you've just got to keep working hard and plugging away at it. Until you have two cars that's what you have to do."
SHOULD TESTING RULES BE CHANGED? "I think they're going to get tweaked more and more. It wasn't that many years ago we didn't have any testing rules. You couldn't test seven days before and that was it. Mark Martin and Jack Roush were running the full schedule and testing basically all the races two weeks before the races. NASCAR has come a long way in limiting testing, and that's something they continue to look at and I hear there will be some more changes for next year. I don't think they're going to knock it out all together, but they've cut it back so much."
COMMENT ON RACING AGAINST RUSTY AND MARK THIS SEASON AND SEEING SOME OF THE OLDER DRIVERS LEAVE THE SPORT "That just happens in any sport or any business. People get that age and retire out in different businesses. I'm absolutely thrilled and I think most people who follow our sport are to see Rusty and Mark Martin running the way they're both running this year being their last year. There's a little controversy if Mark Martin is going to be back next year or not. He sure wasn't planning on being but because of different circumstances he might be back. That's just something that happens. Some of those guys get older and decide it's time to quit. Luckily I'm not getting any older, so I'm going to stick around for a little while."
COMMENT ON QUALIFYING RACES AT DAYTONA "I don't think it (distance) makes much difference. If Talladega would say they're going to have qualifying races to determine how you're going to start, I think everybody would jump up and down and holler and scream and say why are we going to do that? We don't need to do that. We've never done that. It's ridiculous to run those extra races with what it would cost us. Nobody is jumping up and down saying we need to get rid of the qualifying races at Daytona because they've been there, I don't know if they started with the 500 at the big track or not, but they've been there basically since somewhere right around the start. That's part of Speedweeks, and I always look forward to Thursday down there. I sure wouldn't want to go down there and not have Thursday."
COMMENT ON WINNING QUALIFYING RACES IN 87 AND 89 "It was a huge day for us obviously, but the neatest thing I can think about that whole day was it was the first time we'd been anywhere near a Winston Cup victory lane. That was huge, but the neatest thing was the way the people reacted in the garage area for Mr. Dunleavy. That was the part that thrilled me the most. That was very special."
WHAT MAKES A GOOD NASCAR TOWN? "I don't think that there are a ton of characteristics that make a NASCAR town. I think the NASCAR town could be about anywhere anymore. You probably didn't think Phoenix, Ariz., was going to be a much of a NASCAR town, and it has definitely turned into one. When we go to Watkins Glen, oh my gosh, that's unreal up there, Chicago, too. Any place that has a lot of good racetracks around it so you have a big fan base right there, or a lot of good racetracks within a 200 or 300-mile radius. I'm definitely not surprised with the popularity of it in the Midwest, but I'm not really surprised of the popularity of our sport any place we go."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HAVING THE HALL OF FAME IN KANSAS CITY? "I'd hate to be the one to have to make the decision where that thing's going. There's a lot of places that deserve it, but that Kansas City area, that's pretty much dead center of the country and I can't say that would be a bad spot for it."
COMMENT ON THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN NASCAR DURING YOUR CAREER "Just growth and that's everything -- the amount of people at the racetrack, the amount of TV exposure, the number of top-notch, good quality teams. I think one thing that gets overlooked, we can talk about TV or whatever. That's been done a lot, but I think one group of people that are most responsible for growing our sport are the actual sponsors. Every individual sponsor, in the process of that company promoting their own product, they ended up promoting the sport, and I think that's the biggest thing that made it grow or took it to one level. Maybe TV took it from there. It's just amazing to me. When I started in 19 0 something, in St. Louis there was only four or five races you could watch on TV. Now with all the shows that are on TV before and after the races and all the races live, it just amazes me."
ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT SOME OF THE SHORT TRACKS ARE CLOSING? "There's between 900 and 1,000 tracks in the country that run every week. If you figure you've got somewhere 90 and 110 cars at these tracks every week we don't really have a potential shortage of Nextel Cup drivers and Busch Series drivers out there. They're all over. Some of the tracks are closing at a fast rate, and where they were built out in the boonies is now urban areas and they can't afford not to sell. New tracks are being built all the time, some really nice short tracks throughout the country. That's not really a concern. That's just like these drivers that are quitting and these new kids keep coming in. That stuff will all cycle out. Our track in Pevely, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, we've had it for 10 years now and this is the best year we've had. It has a steady growth rate. It's done real good. I-55 Raceway. We ran a good race this year against the St. Louis Busch race with all three of the Wallace Brothers 45 miles up the road and had one of our best nights. All short track fans aren't necessarily Nextel Cup, Craftsman Truck or Busch Series fans. I think the popularity of the big races has given us an opportunity to promote our short tracks better, but it doesn't make any difference if NASCAR runs on Saturday night. We don't see any difference in our attendance."
COMMENT ON QUALIFYING AT TALLADEGA "When I saw where you were going with that question before you said it I was going to say we could pull numbers out of the hat. It just doesn't make any difference where you start. The good cars can get to the front. The neat thing about Talladega, we took a car that ran 42nd by itself and ran good with other cars. You can still get there. It doesn't make any difference where you start. I agree 100 percent with Greg (Biffle). If they said come in Saturday morning and we'll practice for two hours and we're not going to be here Friday, that would be fine by me."
COMMENT ON FUTURE IN THE TV BOOTH "Next Monday, that's how far I look ahead, we won't be on the show because we're doing a Goodyear tire test at Martinsville. We might do a little remote shot from Martinsville, but that's about as far as I look ahead. I don't have any real plans on doing anything different."
COMMENT ON FUTURE RACING PLANS "I'm obviously going to quit Nextel Cup, but I'll never quit racing. I'd like to run the Craftsman Trucks, and I'll race something as long as I can climb in. I'm not sure if I'm not driving a car if I want to go to the racetrack every single weekend. I might want to go to another racetrack and race something else. I'm talking about my racetrack at Pevely or some racetrack around St. Louis. I'm going to continue to race just until I can't climb in the window any more or I can't find anybody to help me get in. The plan is (in Cup) and you know how plans go, but the plan is to run next year the Schwan's car with Beth Ann and Tony and more than likely that would be it, but you never know how that goes. That would probably be it on a full-time basis I would think, but we're just not going to come back one day. That's how our deal is going to work."