- May 29, 1955
- United States
- Nascar Camping World Truck Series
Ken Schrader is an American veteran racing driver who collected more than 1000 starts in all three NASCAR national series since his first race in 1984. He won seven races in all three series (four in the Winston Cup, two in Busch Series and one in Truck Series). Before entering NASCAR, Ken was 1982 USAC Silver Crown champion and 1983 USAC Sprint Car champion.
Career which last 40 years and still isn't over
In 2016, Ken is still active in stock car racing, participating in the Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Series with his own team Ken Schrader Racing Inc. Schrader is also the owner of the Federated Auto Parts Raceway in Pevely, Missouri, and co-owner of Macon Speedway near Macon, Illinois, together with Kenny Wallace, Tony Stewart and Bob Sargent.
Despite not winning any championship title in NASCAR, Schrader is one of the most popular stock car drivers in general, especially because of his long career. Besides four Winston Cup Series wins, his biggest achievements were three consecutive pole positions at Daytona 500, between 1988 and 1990.
USAC titles early in a career
Ken Schrader was born on May 29, 1955, in Fenton, Missouri. As a teenager, he raced in Missouri and across the Midwest with sprint cars. In 1980, he entered the USAC Stock Car division and earned the Rookie of the Year award. In the early 1980s, Schrader competed in various USAC competitions (Sprint car, Silver Crown, midgets...), he even went to Indianapolis 500 in 1983, but he crashed during the practice. After winning the 1982 USAC Silver Crown and 1983 USAC Sprint Car title, Schrader debuted in the NASCAR in 1984.
His debut was in the Winston Cup race Pepsi 420 at Nashville Speedway, in the #64 Ford, he leased from Elmo Langley. Schrader finished 19th in his debut race. He ran four more Winston Cup races during 1984, finishing best in 17th place at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
1985 - first full NASCAR season
For 1985, Schrader made a deal with Junie Donlavey to drive full season with the #90 Ultra Seal-sponsored Ford. Since then, Schrader spent twenty-two full seasons in the NASCAR Winston/Nextel Cup Series, driving for seven different teams (Donlavey Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Arrington Racing, Andy Petree Racing, MB2 Motorsports, BAM Racing and Wood Brothers Racing).
Schrader spent three Winston Cup seasons with Donlavey Racing, progressing year by year. In 1985, his best result was 10th place three times, then he reached the 7th place at two Martinsville races in 1986 and finally, in 1987, Schrader had a ten Top 10 finishes and took 10th place in the points. During 1987, Ken also had a Busch Series debut, driving his own #45 Ford at North Carolina Speedway and finishing fifth.
Joining Hendrick Motorsports in 1988
And then, in 1988, Schrader's golden era started when he joined Hendrick Motorsports, to drive the Folger's Coffee-sponsored #25 Chevrolet. In his first race, Schrader sensationally won the pole for the Daytona 500, beginning a three-year streak in which he won the pole for that race. In the race, he finished sixth.
Schrader failed to qualify for the next race at Richmond with #25 Hendrick's car, so he was driving the #67 Ford of Buddy Arrington. It was his only race outside the #25 car. Further Schrader's performances were improving and the maiden NASCAR victory followed on July 31, at Talladega's Die Hard 500. With one win and seventeen Top 10 finishes, he was fifth in the points at the end of the season.
Winning both in the Winston Cup and Busch Series
The similar results followed in 1989, with second career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway and fourteen Top 10 finishes in total. Schrader was again fifth in the points of the Winston Cup Series. The 1989 season was significant because Schrader also earned his first Busch Series victory, in September at Dover, winning the Ames/Peak 200 with his own #52 Chevrolet.
With Kodiak as a new sponsor in 1990, Schrader took the third consecutive pole position at Daytona 500, finishing 40th once his engine expired after 59 laps. During the season, Schrader didn't score any victory, only seven Top 5 results, and he finished 10th in the points.
Two Winston Cup wins in 1991
In 1991, the #25 Kodiak Chevrolet was victorious two times. Schrader's third Cup Series win came in March, at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The fourth win, his last in the series, followed in June at Dover. Besides two wins, Schrader had nine Top 5 results and he finished 9th in the final points standings.
Ken Schrader spent five more seasons driving Hendrick's #25 Ford, until the end of 1996. His career-best season, with fourth place at the end of the year, was 1994. He scored eighteen Top 10 finished, but without wins. That year, he also scored his second Busch Series victory, again in his own #52 Chevrolet. He won the Fram Filter 500K at Talladega Superspeedway.
1995 - debut and victory in the Truck Series
The 1995 season was significant because of Schrader's Truck Series debut and his first victory in that series. It was in his only second race with #52 Chevrolet truck, at Saugus Speedway in California. It remained Schrader's only Truck Series win, but also his last NASCAR victory in general.
At the end of 1996, Schrader and Rick Hendrick parted ways, after nine years of competing together. The next three seasons, Schrader spent driving the #33 Chevrolet for Andy Petree Racing. After two poles and eight Top 10 results, Ken finished 10th in the standings. It was his last result inside the Top 10. In the next couple of years, he was less competitive and he departed with Petree at the end of 1999.
Schrader was involved in fatal accident of Dale Earnhardt
Schrader's next team was MB2 Motorsports and his car for 2000 was the #36 M&M Pontiac. During two years with MB2 Motorsports, he scored seven Top 10 finishes. The season 2001 was marred by a fatal accident of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona 500, in which Ken Schrader was involved. In 2002, Schrader did not finish in the top 10 in a single race and that happened for the first time since 1984. At the end of that season, he left MB2 Motorsports.
In the next three seasons, from 2003 to 2005, Schrader's car was the #49 Dodge of BAM Racing. The 48-year-old Ken was far from the top performers and he reached Top 10 only six times in 104 races during three seasons.
2006 - the last full season in the Cup
The 2006 season was Schrader's last full season in the Cup Series and he was driving the #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. In that season, he recorded the last two Top 10 results, finishing 9th at Daytona 500 and 7th in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. In 2007, Ken ran a part-time schedule with the Wood Brothers, sharing the car with a rookie Jon Wood. Schrader also drove 17 races in the Truck Series in the #18 Dodge for Bobby Hamilton Racing.
During 2008 Sprint Cup season, Schrader changed six cars from five teams (BAM Racing, Haas/CNC, Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Hall of Fame Racing). His best result was 16th place at Talladega in the #96 Hall of Fame's Toyota.
Racing in the Sprint Cup until 2013
In 2009, Schrader skipped Sprint Cup races, starting only two races in the Truck Series and seven races in the ARCA Series. He returned to the Sprint Cup in October 2010, qualifying for Martinsville race in the #26 Ford of Latitude 43 Motorsports. He led seven laps during the race and finished 18th.
In 2011, Schrader made a deal with FAS Lane Racing to drive a part-time Cup schedule in the #32 Ford. In seven races, his best result was 21st place at Martinsville. The deal was prolonged to 2012 and 2013, but in 23 races during two seasons Schrader's best result was 27th place and he decided not to return to the Sprint Cup Series anymore.
Regular guest at dirt track of Eldora Speedway
Since 2013, Ken is focused on running his own team in the ARCA Series and annual appearances at Mudsummer Classic Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway. He scored two wins in 2013 ARCA Series and one win in 2015, increasing a total number of ARCA wins to eighteen. At Eldora Speedway's dirt track, Schrader's best result was 4th place in 2014.
Oldest ever pole winner in NASCAR
A year before, he earned the pole at Eldora Speedway, becoming the oldest ever pole winner in NASCAR's history, at the age of 58.The same year, he was the oldest ever winner in the ARCA Series. He broke his own record in 2015, winning again in the ARCA Series. In 2016, at the age of 61, Schrader isn't ready to stop and he still wants to compete in the ARCA Series and at Eldora Speedway.