Schrader Enjoys Darlington Challenge

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. - Maybe it’s the ominous nicknames like ‘the track too tough to tame’ or ‘the lady in black.’ Perhaps it’s the infamous Darlington stripe. Or maybe it’s just the challenge of wheeling around the unusually shaped South Carolina track.

Whatever it is, it’s a challenge that “M&M’s”® Racing Team driver Ken Schrader loves and anxiously awaits each season.

“Darlington is a tricky little track, but it is a lot of fun to get around,” Schrader said. “I always say that it is a fun place to go because it is such a challenge.”

Part of the challenge lies in the track’s configuration, Schrader said. The 1.366-mile egg-shaped facility has become infamous around the NASCAR circuit because of its drastically different turns. One end has narrow, one-lane turns – the other end is wide and sweeping. Because of the wide-ranging differences, it’s next to impossible to set the car up for both ends.

The track has also become notoriously hard on tires because of its sandy almost rocky surface.

“It’s rough on tires, and it’s so narrow that it’s really just kind of a screwed up little race track. It has an excuse though,” Schrader said. “It was built in the 1940s.

“You kind of just slide all over the place there. I guess the challenge that Darlington presents to the crews is why they say it’s in the hands of the driver at Darlington.”

The 18-year veteran seems to have a firm grasp on ‘the track too tough to tame.’ In his 35 starts at Darlington, Schrader has captured three poles and 22 finishes in the top 15. Thirteen of those finishes have been top-10s, including a 10th-place run in last year’s Southern 500.

Schrader started last fall’s Southern 500 in eighth place. The No. 36 was solidly in the top 10 all day. Near the midpoint of the race, Schrader’s No. 36 “M&M’s”® car took the point for several laps before he relinquished the lead to pit. Schrader finished the race in 10th place.

The “M&M’s”® Racing Team is hoping to recapture some of last year’s magic this weekend in Darlington.

“Last year, we made one change to the little “M&M’s”® car early in the race, and it took off like a rocket ship,” Schrader said. “It was a pretty unbelievable run we had going. We’d really like to have the “M&M’s”® car running up front again this time around.

“The Southern 500 is one of those races that has so much history and legend surrounding it that it was pretty cool to have such a good run and to even lead the field for a couple of laps. ”

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