Hackettstown, N.J. (April 4, 2000) --- There is something about the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway that brings out the best in "M&M's"Â® Racing Team driver Ken Schrader. Missouri is home for Schrader but the 212-acre facility in northeast ...
Hackettstown, N.J. (April 4, 2000) --- There is something about the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway that brings out the best in "M&M's"® Racing Team driver Ken Schrader. Missouri is home for Schrader but the 212-acre facility in northeast Alabama is always fun to visit and brings back some pretty poignant memories, including his first career Winston Cup win and the latest in his string of 23 career pole positions. There is not a track on the circuit that Schrader doesn't like, but he does seem to have affection for the big, fast tracks like Talladega and Daytona.
Since he started racing full-time on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit in 1985, Schrader has reached a peak speed of more than 200 mph at Talladega and has seen the speeds creep almost as high using restrictor plates. When Schrader won the pole position one year ago at the DieHard 500, he paced the field at 197.765 mph. He hopes to top that speed in the "M&M's"® Pontiac this April. But what ultimately makes Schrader successful on the superspeedways is that he enjoys running on the circuit's biggest tracks.
"Running on the superspeedways is just a lot of fun for me," Schrader said. "They are fast and high banked and you go full throttle until there is a caution or a pit stop. Daytona and Talladega are the only two tracks where we do that. "These tracks also need a lot of mental focus for drivers. If I want to pass a car at Talladega, chances are I've been setting up the pass in my head for a lap or two. The draft is tricky and we have to use it to our advantage, because if we don't someone else will leave us out to dry and we'll lose a lot of positions in a hurry. Our goal is to get the "M&M's"® Pontiac in the lead draft and keep it there all day. If we're in the lead draft at the end, we'll be in the right position to win."
Racing at Talladega is one thing, but qualifying for the race is another animal altogether. Schrader has found what it takes to be successful on Friday as well as Sunday and is always a threat to win the pole at Talladega. Schrader's last five outings at Talladega tell the story. He has qualified in the top 10 for each of the last five races, including two pole positions (fall of 1998 and spring of 1999). He has also started from the fourth position twice and the sixth position once. His career at Talladega is equally impressive, starting from the top 10 in 13 of 30 races.
"The car we're taking to Talladega is the same one we ran in the Bud Shootout in February," Schrader said. "We didn't make a qualifying run with the car during Speedweeks because we drew our starting positions, but we tested the car in January and were really pleased with the results. "Regardless of how it qualifies, we know the car will run well. We were really strong in the Shootout and the "M&M's"® Pontiac was good in the draft. We ran as high as second but, with the last lap wreck, we ended up crossing the start finish line backwards. But we still held on to sixth and hope we get at least that strong a finish at Talladega."
As Schrader proved with the "M&M's"® Racing Team during Speedweeks at Daytona, the No. 36 Pontiac not only qualifies well on the superspeedways, it also finishes well. The "M&M's"® Team left Daytona with two top 10s, including a ninth in the Daytona 500.
"I got my first career win at Talladega, so naturally this place holds a lot of great memories for me," Schrader said. "I've had some great runs here in the past and finished sixth here in the spring last year. I think the "M&M's"® Team's best finish at Talladega is sixth, and I'm determined to better that for them. "As a team we know we can run well at Talladega. We didn't test Talladega in January, but Sammy and the guys have great notes and, by leaving Daytona with two top 10s, I know the "M&M's"® Team has put together a great restrictor plate program."