Schrader toughs out 500 miles at Daytona John Crowley - NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 1998) One of the nicest guys on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series showed that he is also one of its toughest, as Ken Schrader drove 500 miles...
Schrader toughs out 500 miles at Daytona
John Crowley - NASCAR Online
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 1998)
One of the nicest guys on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series showed that he is also one of its toughest, as Ken Schrader drove 500 miles with a broken sternum, shedding conventional wisdom and the majority of the field to finish fourth in the 40th Annual Daytona 500.
His inspiring run Sunday was as much a testimony to his abilities as a driver as it was his dedication to the sport.
"I really didn't think he should drive the car," team owner Andy Petree said. But drive the car he did, evoking memories of his Bud Shootout wins at Daytona International Speedwayin 1988 and '90. The crash in Thursday's Gatorade 125-Mile Twin Qualifier that nearly put him on the bench was a speck in the mirror.
With Winston's No Bull 5 bonus calling his name, Schrader put on a show. Starting 36th, he moved up 20 positions, to 16th, in just 20 laps by attaching himself to the bumper of former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon. The defending race champion, who started 29th, had moved as high as 13th over that same stretch.
Schrader's first appearance in the top-10 came on lap 110. Thirty laps later he was second to race-winner Dale Earnhardt, flak jacket and electric painkilling device along for the ride.
"I knew Thursday night I wasn't getting out of the car," Schrader said. "There wasn't nothing that was going to keep me from running this race."
Schrader did bring veteran Morgan Shepherd to Daytona International Speedway on Friday as a backup. Shepherd, who will run his own car next weekend at North Carolina Motor Speedway, practiced the car on Saturday. Sunday he was little more than a spectator in the Andy Petree Racing pit.
Schrader made sure of that on lap 115, when he got on the radio and told Shepherd, no hard feelings pal, but go home.
"There's a $7 million purse here, I'm not going to let someone else drive my car," Schrader said. "Morgan was standing by. He asked how I felt. I said, 'if you want to hit the bricks, go ahead.' I think he finally did." Seventy-five laps later, as the cars in the lead pack shot left and right like flares in a Fourth of July fireworks show, he might have had second thoughts. But Schrader took a deep breath, and stabbed the floor with his foot.
"When those guys are laid up all over you like that," Schrader said. "You don't think about a couple of little hurts someplace. It was there, but I had better things on my mind."
Several factors combined to ensure this would be one of Schrader and Petree's most difficult days together. They also guaranteed the afternoon would be among their most rewarding.
"I can't put into words what I feel about Kenny Schrader right now," Petree said. "It's unbelievable what he did today.
Courtesy of NASCAR Online