KEN SCHRADER You Never Forget Your First Win CORNELIUS, N.C. (Oct. 1, 2008) -- It's been said that a person never forgets his or her first love, first car or first job. And in the racing world, a racer never forgets his or her first win. For...
You Never Forget Your First Win
CORNELIUS, N.C. (Oct. 1, 2008) -- It's been said that a person never forgets his or her first love, first car or first job. And in the racing world, a racer never forgets his or her first win.
For Ken Schrader, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry, his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory came 20 years ago -- July 31, 1988 -- in the Talladega DieHard 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway or, as it was called then, Alabama International Motor Speedway. The Fenton, Mo., native led eight laps in the No. 25 Folgers Coffee Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports and collected a winner's check for $67,920.
Compare that to the 2008 spring race at Talladega, when Kyle Busch scored the victory and collected a check for $321,400.
Schrader returns this week to Talladega for Sunday's AMP Energy 500 Sprint Cup Series race at the 2.66-mile oval. And, like 11 other drivers on the entry list, Schrader will have to qualify on time since the No. 96 is outside the top-35 in owner points.
What makes the situation challenging at Talladega is that once the cars qualify on Saturday, they are impounded by NASCAR officials and adjustments cannot be made until the race begins. That means the teams must find a balance between putting a setup on the car that will make it fast during single-car qualifying, but also makes it competitive in the race, when drafting plays a key role.
KEN SCHRADER, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry:
What are your overall thoughts heading into Talladega?
"We've got to make the show, first. Qualifying at the restrictor-plate tracks is always dicey because you just never know what the conditions will be like. Once you get into the race, it's typical Talladega. It's just putting your foot to the floor and hoping you don't get caught up in a wreck. There's not much you can do about the wrecks. You're either in it or you're not. When it starts happening, there is either going to be a hole for you or a way you can wiggle through, but more than likely if it's not there, you can't just make a hole. It's not like you can cut left or cut right and cut left that quick and miss it at those speeds. You either miss it or you don't."
What do you remember about your win at Talladega in 1988?
"You always remember the first win. I was driving for Mr. (Rick) Hendrick at the time and it was just a cool deal. We only led like eight laps that day, but it doesn't matter, as long as you lead the last one."
What is your strategy at Talladega?
"You go with whoever your car runs good with, whoever is around you, whoever you trust."
STEVE BOYER, crew chief of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry:
How hard is it to set up the car for qualifying, knowing that the cars will be impounded and adjustments can't be made before the race?
"Talladega is probably better than Daytona because qualifying trim and race trim are so similar. But, there are still some things you can do to make your car faster for qualifying that you don't want to have for the race. We have to make a decision on the trade-off of making the race, but not completely crippling our chances in the race. Those are decisions that you make weeks in advance. It's a fine line to walk."
Will you focus on single-car runs during practice on Friday, or do you focus on drafting practice?
"It's all single-car qualifying runs in practice. You can't afford to do drafting practice because you can't afford to bump or touch another car before qualifying, especially the position we're in. Any little disturbance to the car due to contact with another car could cost us time during qualifying. Our primary car is no doubt our best car from a drag standpoint. So we need to make sure that it gets through the two practices without a scratch."