Ken Schrader spotlight

Love of dirt tracks keeps Ken Schrader going in circles. Hackettstown, N.J. (June 26, 2002) - If you're trying to find Ken Schrader, don't look too far past the closest oval. Chances are, that's just where he is. The 18-year Winston Cup...

Love of dirt tracks keeps Ken Schrader going in circles.

Hackettstown, N.J. (June 26, 2002) - If you're trying to find Ken Schrader, don't look too far past the closest oval. Chances are, that's just where he is.

The 18-year Winston Cup veteran has earned the reputation in the garage as a true "racer's racer." He loves the hum of the motor, the smell of the oil, and more than anything, the sound of the words - "Gentleman, start your engines."

When Schrader isn't donning the colors of the No. 36 "M&M's"® Pontiac that he pilots on Sunday afternoons, you can bet that he is driving in circles somewhere.

This season, Schrader has plans to run in excess of 80 races. That's 38 Winston Cup races, nine Craftsman Truck races, two ARCA races, two Busch races, two Featherlite Southwest Tour races and at least 25 races on dirt.

"M&M's"® Night Of Stars at I-55 Raceway on July 31st is one of many dirt track outings that Schrader will make this season.

"It's pretty simple," Schrader said. "I want to spend my time racing. It's not only my job, it's my hobby and I love the time that I get to spend behind the wheel. I race whenever I get the chance."

And that has been the case since Schrader was but a mere child growing up in Missouri. The story goes that when Schrader was only four years old, his daddy bought him a go-kart. They tied the go-kart to a pole in Schrader's backyard, and he went round and round in circles until the go-kart ran out of gas.

But that didn't stop Schrader. He asked his daddy to fill the car back up, and he went at it again. His love of racing only progressed over the years, as Schrader went to local dirt tracks with his dad.

After years of watching the races, it was finally Schrader's turn to get behind the wheel. On May 30, 1971, Schrader entered and won his very first race at Lake Hill Speedway in St. Louis driving the No. 01 car.

When Schrader took the checkered flag that night, it was the first of many for the then 16-year-old. Schrader missed school the day after the race - but he wasn't celebrating, he had to go take his driver's license exam.

"I turned 16 on Saturday. My dad drove me to the race track on Sunday, and I won the race that night. I went and got my driver's license on Monday," Schrader said. "It was pretty wild."

That night could be what started his love of dirt track racing. Over the years, Schrader has collected checkered flags in every circuit he has raced. He's won championships, the Winston Cup rookie of the year title and countless races. And through it all, he has remained true to his roots - always finding time to return to the dirt tracks of the Midwest.

This week alone, he plans to race at Jacksonville Speedway in Illinois on Friday night, I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., on Saturday night and Cayuga Speedway in Ontario, Canada on Sunday. That's a typical week's work for Schrader during the summer.

Each May through August, Schrader is especially busy traveling to tracks in locales like Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Missouri. His favorite track being I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., the track he co-promotes with friend Ray Marler.

Schrader especially enjoys showcasing his track to friends in the Winston Cup circuit. He has brought the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Dale Jarrett, Michael Waltrip, and others to the race track for autograph signings and to watch the races.

This year, Schrader and some of his pals will come to Pevely for "M&M's"® Night Of Stars. On July 31st, 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.

"We have had a bunch of guys who went to Pevely and have had fun, and we have had a bunch of guys who have wanted to come out to Pevely," Schrader said. "We just thought why not get a bunch of guys together and all of us go out to Pevely one night, have a lot of fun and raise a lot of money for a really good cause - the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

"This is definitely a can't miss for race fans."


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About this article
Series NASCAR , Stock car
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Jarrett , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Johnny Benson