‘I’d like to Do It Another 30 Years’

Jackson Wheeler
9 Min Read

When it comes to Ken Schrader, the numbers are truly impressive. Among the most impressive is 68—the age of one of America’s favorite race-car drivers and perhaps its busiest and most accessible.

To hear him tell it, 68 is just another two-digit number… and certainly not a notable milestone.

Since his latest “endless season” began on January 3 in Somerton, Az., Schrader has made 66 starts in his self-owned dirt Late Models and dirt open-wheel modifieds in 17 states and a Canadian province. He’s done more than a dozen other races for other owners, including the full six-race Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) and a mid-summer school bus race. He expects to race until after Thanksgiving, making this yet another 75- to 80-start season during a career that has seen plenty of them.

auto jun 02 nascar cup series enjoy illinois 300

Ken Schrader, at age 68, continues to run a full racing schedule. Schrader retired from NASCAR in 2013 after 29 years of racing in the Cup Series.

Icon Sportswire//Getty Images

As if racing two or three times a week isn’t time-consuming enough, he owns Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Mo. He spends upwards of 30 “play days” a year, making laps in his two-seaters with Federated executives and customers across the country. All told, he’ll be in a race car more than 100 days or nights this year, about par for the course. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Seems like I’ve been doing this forever,” he said recently from his home in Dittmer, Mo., about an hour from St. Louis. “For me, this is as normal a lifestyle as it can be. At least I don’t have to be going out there trying to find something to do to make money. Really, I’m just playing.”

Schrader’s 50-year resume is one for the ages, befitting the oft-heard praise that he’ll race anything anywhere at any time of day or night—sometimes more than once any day or night. For many racers, it’s high praise. Indeed, it’s among the highest compliments they can hear.

He’s officially credited with slightly more than 1,200 NASCAR starts in the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman, Pinty, and Whelen Modified series. He’s run countless races on the organization’s far-flung Southwest, Southeast, Northwest, and Midwest tours. He’s made 123 ARCA Menards starts, perhaps 100-plus more in various USAC series, seven SRX starts the past two years, and a handful of IndyCar and IROC races. He’s started more weeknight and weekend dirt- and paved-track Silver Crown, Sprint Car, and Midget races than anyone can accurately count. He among 40 drivers with victories in each of NASCAR’s top three series.

superstar racing experience i 55 raceway

Ken Schrader was a regular participant in the Camping World Superstar Racing Experience over the summer.

Jeff Curry//Getty Images

One of this year’s victories was in a 100-lap NASCAR Pinty Series race at Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario, Canada in mid-August. His first NASCAR victory since winning a 1995 Craftsman Truck Series race at Saugus Speedway in California made him—by an astonishing 16 years—the oldest winner in a NASCAR-sanctioned event. By contrast, the long-retired Harry Gant was a mere 52-year-old pup when he won a 400-mile Cup race at Michigan Speedway in August of 1992.

And Schrader doesn’t see any end in sight. Why? As his long-suffering and fully supportive wife, Ann, says, “He has no other skills or hobbies.”

“I’m still having as much fun as I’ve ever had,” Schrader said. “I’d like to do it another 30 years … that’s how long I’d like to do it, but that’s not likely to happen. Sometimes the travel is a pain, you know. Driving all day and racing all night, or racing all day and driving all night. But on the other hand, that’s sometimes the fun part of it.

“Really, every part of racing is still fun for me. The travel, the actual racing, being in the shop with the guys, getting ready to go racing, going to different tracks and racing different cars. It’s never gotten to the point where I’ve ever thought about quitting. I’ve never given it a thought, never even considered not doing this for as long as I can.”

That’s why he’s not overly concerned about not having raced in all 50 states. He’s competed at least once in all except Hawaii and Rhode Island, but isn’t hell-bent on adding either state because, he insists, that was never a goal to begin with. And, of course, there’s always time since he’s not retiring anytime soon.

“They have a track in Hawaii, and I’ve had offers from the people out there to come over and race,” he said. “It’s just a matter of me deciding when I want to go. But there’s not a track in Rhode Island right now.

“And you know what? That (two-state gap) doesn’t bother me because I was never really trying to get to all 50. It just sort of gradually happened over the years. But somehow, people thought I really, really wanted to do all 50, that it was a big deal. That’s not the case. It would be nice, but it’s not bothering me.”

Wife, Ann, says, “He has no other skills or hobbies.”

Nor is he bothered by the highly publicized blowup with Paul Tracy in the mid-summer SRX race in Pulaski, Va. In that one, Tracy, Schrader and Josef Newgarden crashed late in the feature, an incident that swept up Marco Andretti and Hailie Deegan. Most observers put the blame squarely on Tracy, a full-schedule veteran of the tour. He was quickly suspended from the season’s last three races in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

Afterward, Schrader told officials he wouldn’t be back as long as Tracy was part of the 12-driver field. “I didn’t have a problem with Paul,” Schrader said. “I like him. I like talking with him. I like racing with him. But the accident was his fault, so I told the (SRX) people that I wouldn’t come back and race with them if he was still there.

“Sure, I’d like to be invited back to run the series again next year. It was fun and I enjoyed it. They haven’t announced the field yet, but the dates are about the same. But the thing is … if I’m not running those dates with them, I’ll just be somewhere else. It’s not like I won’t be racing.”

The Schraders have two adult children, a 20-something banker son, Sheldon, and a married 30-something daughter, Dorothy. The kids live in the Charlotte area, but Schrader says the racing lifestyle doesn’t interfere with having more time with them as much as the 750-mile distance between Missouri and North Carolina.

“I don’t see them (his children and Dorothy’s 5-year-old son) nearly as much as I want to,” he said, somewhat wistfully. “Things might be different if I wasn’t racing so much, but, man, I still gotta race.”

Share This Article
Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
Leave a comment