K. Scharder interview

KEN SCHRADER , NO. 36 M&M'S PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON THE GROWING PAINS HIS TEAM HAS EXPERIENCED THIS YEAR) "We got kind of caught off guard at the start of the year. We didn't expect to have a ton of problems as far as getting going and being...


(ON THE GROWING PAINS HIS TEAM HAS EXPERIENCED THIS YEAR) "We got kind of caught off guard at the start of the year. We didn't expect to have a ton of problems as far as getting going and being more competitive than we were at the start of the season. We've been going through a lot of growing pains. The addition of Johnny Benson, James Ince and the No. 10 Pontiac to our stable I believe has been a lot of help. We've seen quite a bit of improvement in the M&M's team in the last month, up until the Dover race. We kind of struggled there. But it's been a big help. We're currently building a new building that will house both teams so the teams will be together. We've got different cars. Different chassis builders build our cars and we're going to uniform them to all Hopkins cars, so we think we have a lot of reasons to be excited about the improvement. But we have been caught off guard the way we struggled at the start of the year, especially."

(ON LOOKING FORWARD TO 2001) "Most definitely. With both teams together, being able to really compare set-ups more because of the cars being the same, both having the luxury of running Hendrick engines - being on a lease program with them, which has been very good for both of us - we think that we should run a lot better. We're currently 16th in points. We dropped a position this week, but still we're real close to 11th. It's within a couple hundred points. That's where we want to try to get yet this year."

(ON THE 20001 WINSTON CUP SCHEDULE) "I've been doing this for a while now, since '85, and I don't see where a lot of stuff has changed. It was 29 races when I started and obviously, we're up to 36 next year. But it's all the new places since I started with the series. Now we go to Phoenix, Watkins Glen, Texas, and now this year with Chicago and Kansas City. Being born and raised in St. Louis, I'm very excited about going to Chicago and Kansas City. That's getting close to home. There are so many good supporters of short track racing in general throughout the Midwest and to go to beautiful new facilities in new markets, I'm excited about next year's schedule."

(ON HOW FAR YOU CAN PUSH A CAR IN A SITUATION LIKE DOVER WHERE TIRES BECOME AN ISSUE) "I don't think we had a big question on tires last week. We had some tire failures, but you'd really have to talk to the guys that had the failures and see where they were on their air pressure and their camber and their upper control arm length. Goodyear gave us a recommendation that they felt comfortable with. Usually when they give you a recommendation you can fudge on it just a little bit (with camber and air pressure) because they are a little bit conservative. But if you fudge on it too much you're going to pay the price later. Now I'm not saying that those cars did fudge it too much, but they could have easy. We fudged what Goodyear told us a little bit and felt comfortable about it and never saw any kinds of problems." (HOW MANY WINSTON CUP RACES COULD HE RUN IN A YEAR?) "Myself, I could do a lot more than the 38 weekends - I could do a lot more than that because I'm going to run basically every weekend from the end of January through Thanksgiving anyway, plus all the mid-week races."

"Now from the team standpoint, they could do more, too, especially when we're going into new markets that are worth enough to our sponsors that they're able to up their financial commitment so we can hire more people and just kind of even up the workload and spread it around on more people. With the TV package that we're going to next year and the new markets, it's worth more to the sponsors."

"I know a lot of guys complain about the schedule, but I think they need to remember what they're making on this deal, too. It's not like anybody is going to do this for 30 years or anything as a driver, so we need to do it while we've got the opportunity."

"I look at it as 'days at the racetrack.' Now, we're adding two races next year, but there is some talk about maybe testing getting changed a little bit where that might be trimmed back a little more. There is also some talk about some of the days being trimmed off some of the weekends - maybe some more two-day shows, maybe something being trimmed off the Charlotte races just a little bit. So if we're just talking about days gone, we might forget about the fact we're adding two races. We'll probably come out pretty much a 'wash' next year, as far as days that you're actually gone."

(IS MARTINSVILLE BECOMING MORE OF 'THINKING MAN'S RACE?') "I think all the races are becoming more like that, especially Martinsville and 'two tires versus the four,' and the 'pit or not pit.' What's happened there a lot is Goodyear just keeps bringing a better tire. Their Martinsville tire, especially, it just doesn't' slow down. It used to be any time the yellow came out you wanted to go in and strap on four more tires. But like we're seeing at a lot of racetracks now, with the tires that Goodyear is bringing - we saw the same thing at Loudon two weeks ago - you don't just instantly head down pit road. I think Goodyear has basically changed a lot of the ways that these races are run."

(HOW DOES A DRIVER STAY PATIENT WHEN IT IS TOUGH TO PASS?) "Martinsville is extremely tight - it's obviously the smallest place we go to. But I can't see where it's real easy to pass any place. As these cars become closer and closer, which they do as far as speeds from the first car back to the 43rd starter - at Martinsville we'll be talking about the whole qualified field within two-tenths of a second - it's just not real easy to pass anyone anywhere. Goodyear keeps bringing these tires, which I keep talking about, but they keep bringing these tires. There is always one fastest part of the racetrack. Well, when everybody is on a better tire, everybody wants to use that fastest part more and more, so these tracks are essentially getting narrower and narrower to race on. We talk about all this stuff, but when it comes time to actually race Sunday and we get 50 or 60 laps into a run you'll see guys doing a ton of passes, so it's just not that simple. You do have to be extremely patient at Martinsville. Brakes still come into play. You can burn the brakes up. It's an extremely good test of the mechanical side of the car there."

(DO DRIVERS ENJOY RUNNING SHORT TRACKS?) "It depends on how your car is running. If your car is running good that day and the thing is handling good, you're passing people and you're going forward, it's a lot of fun. Those days when your car is not working, then it's frustrating any place. I think the majority of the guys look forward to going to Martinsville. When I first started I had absolutely no use for the short tracks and had to kind of make myself start liking them because when you had that kind of mindset you didn't do good at them. But it's become a place that I always look forward to going to."

(ON BRAKE MANAGEMENT AT MARTINSVILLE) "You have to think brakes all the time. But now you can use them a lot harder than you use to, just because the brakes we have now are so much better, and they last so much longer. It's still very much in your mind all the time. You have to conserve them, but you still use them a ton more than when I first started."

(ON THE ADVANTAGES OF TEAMING UP WITH JOHNNY BENSON) "Johnny officially became our teammate for the second Pocono race and we've seen a lot of benefits of it already. We struggled this weekend and Johnny ran extremely good at Dover - had a good shot at winning and ran second - but we have seen benefits of it. I'm very much excited about it and looking forward to continuing with it."

(ON THE EXTRA RACES THAT HE RUNS DURING THE YEAR) "We do quite a bit. We run 75 to 80 races a year - 36 of them as far as the Winston Cup races - so we do quite a bit. The off-weekends we always go some place and try to run some place Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We run a lot of Tuesday-Wednesday stuff in June, July and August. I'm very fortunate to have a good opportunity with a good team in the Winston Cup Series, but I grew up racing any chance I got. I didn't start racing thinking I was going to make any money at it. I started because I loved it and I still love to do it. Besides being my profession it's also my hobby. We run a dirt late model a lot. We've got a little racetrack right outside of St. Louis - I-55 Speedway. I go there three or four times a year. We just kind of go all over with the dirt car. We go run some Winston West races and some ARCA races. We've run the (Craftsman) truck five or six times this year. We just kind of work on our schedule and all those off-weekends, we just see whatever races are out there and then just figure out where we want to go. "I'm not tired of it, yet. I'm not saying that day's not coming. But I'm not going to be able to do this forever, so while I'm able to do it now I want to do it as much as I can."

(ON HAVING ONE PIT ROAD AT MARTINSVILLE INSTEAD OF TWO) "I think it's good. The length of the pit road now - boy, it kills you if you come down pit road on a green flag stop and then everyone else gets to pit under yellow. That can pretty much about ruin your day any place, but at Martinsville it can really be bad. I think it was a big improvement and we're a lot better off because before when you were working off that back straightaway you were at a pretty big handicap going in."

(ON THE NEW RESTRICTOR PLATE RULES AT TALLADEGA) "I talked to some of the guys when they went to Daytona (for the test) and they all ran together. They said it's going to kind of be like that truck race (at Daytona) looked - pretty exciting."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Johnny Benson