Racing Never Stops For Schrader

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On Fridays, NASCAR Winston Cup drivers can be found at the racetrack, getting ready for another event.

This Friday – and this weekend – most drivers will be far away from a race track, enjoying their first off-weekend of the year, spending time with family and friends, celebrating the Easter holiday or simply relaxing.

But where will Ken Schrader be? He’ll be at a racetrack, of course. Some off-weekend.

“Well, yeah it is,” Schrader said. “It’s an off-weekend for Winston Cup, so everybody’s going to go do what they want. That’s all I’m gonna go do, too –what I want to do.”

In basketball, there are gym rats, players who love the game so much they spend most of their waking hours shooting jumpers or playing pickup games or working on ball-handling.

Those guys would love Schrader. Maybe we could call him a racetrack rat. He loves driving so much that he’ll do it just about any place, any time, in any car. On Friday, Schrader will be driving a dirt modified car at Joplin 66 Speedway in Joplin, Mo.

On Saturday, Schrader will be back in the dirt modified car at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., a small dirt track he co-owns.

Oh, yeah, on Sunday, Schrader will ride his motorcycle from St. Louis to Dallas.

Not much of an off-weekend, to the lay person.

“It’s whatever you want to do,” Schrader said. “If every week we had a Cup week, that’d be fine by me. I just want to race. This deal is a whole lot harder on the team guys than the drivers. I can see some of that. But everybody’s going to go do what they want to do. That’s all I’m going to do.”

Some drivers have complained the Winston Cup season – with all the obligations a driver has to face – is too long. There are 36 races, plus the Budwesier Shootout, the Gatorade Twin 125-mile qualifying races and The Winston. It can be a grind, especially toward the end of the season.

But a race, any race, is a little like relaxation to Schrader.

“It’s just fun,” Schrader said. “I enjoy it. I enjoy hopping in my Cup car, too. I just enjoy hopping in the racecar. (Winston Cup) is obviously big business and an important deal and all that shit, but these guys that say they ain’t having fun out here, they ought to go do something else. It’s getting harder every year, but that’s because the sport’s growing. I still enjoy it as much as I ever did.”

Schrader is a guy you can’t picture sitting in a recliner watching television on his off weekends. Yes, he loves his wife, Ann, and their two kids, Dorothy and Sheldon. But …

“I like being at my house,” Schrader said. “I like being with the kids. But if there’s a race somewhere, I’m supposed to be there. That’s just my deal. If I could shove off two days a week and go do something with them every week, that’d be wonderful. But the schedule just doesn’t work that way.”

Besides, “They’re going to do what they want,” Schrader said. Ann and the kids went skiing last week, but Schrader didn’t.

“I’ve done it,” Schrader said. “But if I’ve got my choice between skiing and racing …”

Racing wins every time. His family understands, but there have been some protests of the “We never see you” variety.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” Schrader said. “But they come to most of the Cup races. They’re starting to miss some more just because my daughter’s got her own social schedule.”

Dorothy turned 12 on New Year’s Eve and is blossoming into a young woman. So, of course, Dorothy has her own idea of what’s fun.

Ann is likely the one who would complain the loudest, but she understands that racing is part of Ken’s life. It’s a big part, of course.

“It’s not something I just started doing,” Schrader said. “When Ann and I started dating, I was racing 100 nights a year, so this isn’t something that just happened.”

Schrader can’t keep that schedule these days, but his itinerary includes 19 non-Winston Cup races – and that’s through the first half of the year.

This weekend, Schrader returns home to Fenton, Mo ., to race against some old friends. But even though he’ll race on a track he co-owns, he won’t have any built-in advantage.

“I go there three times a year,” Schrader said. “Everyone else there is 22 times a year. You don’t drop in and have and advantage. But it’s fun to go back. And it’s guys that I started out racing with, guys I’ve known forever. You’re just going back racing with your buddies.”

Schrader also owns several cars out of his Ken Schrader Racing shops, but this weekend’s car will be provided by Dirt Works Race Cars of Walker, Mo.

“Whenever I need a car, they bring me one,” Schrader said. “It’s Federated. It shows up, and you wouldn’t know it’s not mine. It’s theirs. It’s a house car.”

Schrader isn’t worried about its safety, or his, for that matter. He admits that an injury suffered away from Winston Cup would put a damper on his career, but it’s worth the risk.

“It would really hurt it, yeah,” Schrader said. “I run a lot more miles a year in my Winston Cup car than anything else, so I figure that gives me a whole lot better chance of getting hurt there than anyplace else.”

Besides, he is practical about it.

“How are you going to be a race-car driver and worry about getting hurt?” Schrader said.

Of course, to him, how are you going to be a racecar driver … without driving a racecar?

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