Hackettstown, N.J. (July 9, 2002) - Kenny Schrader never really planned on owning a dirt track. He just wanted to race. And raced he has. Since the time he was four in his backyard, Schrader has been behind the wheel of some type of race car....
Hackettstown, N.J. (July 9, 2002) - Kenny Schrader never really planned on owning a dirt track. He just wanted to race.
And raced he has. Since the time he was four in his backyard, Schrader has been behind the wheel of some type of race car. Over the years, Schrader has moved up through the racing circuits visiting numerous tracks around the country and collecting various checkered flags.
Simply put, Schrader loves being part of the action on the race track, but it never really occurred to him that he would be one of the people behind the scenes - planning the on-track action for a race track including all-star events like "M&M's" Night Of Stars.
But seven years ago, Schrader had an offer that he really couldn't refuse.
A dirt track - I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo. - where he had raced for years was having a rough go at it. Schrader's long-time friend Ray Marler, who Schrader raced sprint cars for back in Missouri, approached him with an idea.
"Ray wanted us to partner up, lease the race track and help it out," Schrader said. "He brought me all the paperwork and crunched numbers, and he showed me that the whole deal really was possible - that we could make it work.
"I had run at the dirt track forever. It was a pretty regular stop for me before I started driving on the Winston Cup circuit, so I really wanted to see it survive. I really wanted to help it out."
Today, Schrader and Marler are in their seventh year as co-promoters of I-55 Raceway. The 3/8-mile dirt track is a short 30-minute drive south on I-55 from the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch.
The track, which seats a little more than 5,000 fans, plays host to about 24 shows each year. I-55 Raceway has Saturday night shows mid-March through mid-September and two Wednesday night events during the season.
Since Schrader and Marler have taken over at the raceway, there have been substantial improvements to the infrastructure. They've added grandstands, improved parking and bettered the infield.
"Little improvements really help bring the fans back every week," Schrader said.
Schrader's love of bringing his Winston Cup buddies to the race track for appearances and autograph sessions also helps to pack in the fans. He has brought the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Dale Jarrett, Michael Waltrip and others to Pevely. Dale Jr. alone attracted more than 7,000 fans to the 3/8-mile dirt track.
This year, Schrader and some of his pals will go to Pevely for "M&M's"® Night Of Stars. On July 31st, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett, Kenny Wallace, Johnny Benson and others will join Schrader for a night at the dirt track.
The group will sign autographs from 5-7 p.m., and then they will take to the track for a quick shoot-out in dirt modifieds. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a camp for terminally ill children established by Kyle and Pattie Petty.
"I'll tell you one thing, this is going to be fun - not just for the fans, but for the drivers," Schrader said. "For a lot of the drivers, coming to Pevely will be like coming home because a lot of us got our starts on the dirt tracks.
"But forget about it being a dirt track - it's a short track, and we all know how short track racing is. Even though we're just out there having a good time, I know that we'll all be beating and banging on each other doors - none of us want to lose, especially me."
Schrader hopes that tickets and T-shirt sales at the event will raise at least $100,000 for the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
"This is a great opportunity for everybody," Schrader said. "The fans will see a great show, we're going to have fun and we're all going to be able to help Kyle raise some money for the Victory Junction Gang.
"I really hope to see the fans lined up for this race."