Schrader and Petree Look To Return To Victory Lane Together CHARLOTTE, N.C., --- Ken Schrader, driver of the Skoal Bandit Racing Chevrolet, and team owner Andy Petree have a lot in common at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Ironically, both ...
Schrader and Petree Look To Return To Victory Lane Together
CHARLOTTE, N.C., --- Ken Schrader, driver of the Skoal Bandit Racing Chevrolet, and team owner Andy Petree have a lot in common at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Ironically, both Schrader and Petree enjoyed their first career NASCAR Winston Cup victories at the famed 2.66-mile high banked tri-oval in 1988. Now, 10 years later, they both hope to be in victory lane, but this time together.
Schrader was in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports when he made a last lap charge, passing Dale Earnhardt and Sterling Marlin for his first career Winston Cup victory at Talladega in July 1988. Just two months earlier, Petree in his first year as a crew chief, was working for Leo Jackson Motorsports and driver Phil Parsons when they won at Talladega Superspeedway.
"That victory at Talladega was awesome," said Schrader. "It was pretty big since it was my first season with Hendrick Motorsports and my first Winston Cup victory. On the last lap, all I could focus on was getting by Dale and Sterling. I knew I had to give it all I had, but the key was being in position to win on the last lap."
Schrader knows the importance of being in position to make a charge for the checkered flag at restrictor plate races.
In last year's DieHard 500 at the series longest track, Schrader and the Skoal Bandit Racing Chevrolet was in third position with 50 laps remaining.
Shortly after, a multi-car accident took place directly behind Schrader when Jeff Gordon apparently cut a left rear tire, causing a major melee that involved 20 cars. After a lengthy caution, Schrader found himself in position to lead the race.
With just 25 laps remaining, Schrader was in second place, behind race leader Terry Labonte. He wanted to break out of the draft and go for the lead, but Petree advised him to stay in the draft and ride.
"It is hard to stay behind the leader and ride when you know you have what it takes to get the lead," said Schrader. "I know it is the smart thing to do in the long run, but race car drivers want to lead whenever they can. Andy was on the radio telling me to ride because he didn't want me to get out of the draft and get shuffled back out of the top 10. I guess that's why he is the crew chief and I'm the driver."
Petree wanted Schrader to stay in line as long as he could and then go for the lead in the waning laps.
"I knew that the longer Schrader could stay in line in the draft, the better off we'd be with a few laps to go," Petree said. "In restrictor-plate races, just about every driver will tell you that if you are in the lead in the last laps of the race your chances of winning have increased ten-fold. The objective was to keep Schrader as close to the lead as possible when the laps wound down, so he could make a charge for the lead in the last couple of laps."
On lap 180, Schrader snatched the lead from Terry Labonte. He held on to the lead until lap 186 when the Labonte brothers teamed up and pushed Schrader back to fourth.
"With two laps to go, I looked in my mirror and thought ‘Oh man, I'm toast,' " said Schrader. "I knew I was in trouble. I looked back and I saw two brothers (Terry and Bobby Labonte) and two teammates (Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven). I figured that if it came down to Terry and I, Bobby had to go with his brother."
Although Schrader and Petree have not visited victory lane together, they feel that Talladega is the place it will happen.
"We were in position to win at Talladega last fall and at Daytona in February," said Petree. "I think we have a real good chance to win the Winston 500 at Talladega. Our restrictor-plate program is very strong and Kenny loves racing at Talladega, so my confidence is riding high."
Sure, Talladega Superspeedway is the site of both Schrader's and Petree's first victories on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, but nothing would be more gratifying than celebrating the sweet taste of their first victory together after this year's Winston 500.