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Since Kenny Schrader was a little boy growing up in Fenton, Missouri, Schrader has found some of his greatest happiness driving in circles. And after 20 full seasons in NASCAR’s elite series, Schrader still can’t wait to put on his helmet, strap in his driver’s seat and chase the checkered flag every Sunday afternoon or any other day of the week for that matter.
It is that desire and dedication to drive that has earned Schrader the reputation around the garage as a true racer’s racer. It’s nothing for Schrader to run a couple of dirt races during the week, compete in the Nextel Cup Series on the weekend and then show up at another dirt track show on Monday night.
In fact, many have said that Kenny Schrader will race just about anything that has wheels. Asphalt or dirt, superspeedway or half-mile track – it really doesn’t matter as long as it has three pedals and a steering wheel.
The story of how Schrader’s racing career began has been told so many times that it is almost legend in the NASCAR ranks.
At the young age of three, Schrader’s dad Bill tied a cable from his go-kart to a post in the backyard of their Midwestern home. Schrader would go round and round in circles. When the go-kart ran out of gas, Schrader would ask his dad to fill it back up. Then he would start going in circles all over again.
Schrader’s love of racing has only progressed over the years.
“I guess you could say that I have been dizzy ever since,” Schrader said. “I really don’t think it is an exaggeration when I say that racing is all I’ve ever known. I’ve been racing since I could walk, and it is really all I have ever wanted to do. To be honest, I would race everyday if I had the opportunity.”
And that’s no understatement. At one point in his career, Schrader was running in excess of 100 races each year. In recent years, Schrader has cut that number back to about 90 races a season, but he still climbs in that race car every time he has the chance.
For the past 20 years, Schrader has focused on racing full-time in the Nextel Cup Series. However, he also drives for his self-owned team in a variety of series including the Craftsman Truck Series, the NASCAR Grand National West Division, the NASCAR Auto Zone Elite Southwest Series and the ARCA Series. Schrader also finds time to stay close to his roots as he also races at various dirt tracks throughout the Midwest each year.
Driving and owning his own team isn’t Schrader’s only connection to racing. For the past nine years, he has also been co-promoter for one of the 3/8-mile dirt tracks where he grew up racing – I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo.
Schrader’s career started at local dirt tracks just like the one he now owns. Before getting behind the wheel of a stock car, Schrader raced all over the Midwest, driving mostly open wheel cars.
He won in every division he raced, including two USAC championships. Schrader won the USAC Silver Crown championship in 1982, and he followed that up by taking top honors in the USAC Sprint Car division in 1983.
Despite his success in the open wheel ranks, Schrader wanted to find a permanent home in a stock car circuit.
His big break came in 1984 with the help of car owner Elmo Langley. Schrader rented Langley’s Fords for three races in 1984 before running out of money. By being smart on the race track and careful with the equipment, Langley allowed Schrader to run two extra races that year. By the end of the season, the cars were still in one piece and Schrader had gotten his first taste of the big show.
He wasted no time making his case for a full-time ride in the Winston Cup Series. Car owner Junie Donlavey was impressed by Schrader’s talent, and he decided to take a chance on the young driver. Donlavey’s hunch paid off as Schrader scored three top-10 finishes en route to Rookie of the Year honors for the 1985 season.
From Donlavey Racing, Schrader moved to Hendrick Motorsports in 1988. Schrader earned all four of his victories in nine seasons with the Hendrick Motorsports organization from behind the wheel of the No. 25 Chevrolet. During his nine seasons with Hendrick, Schrader accumulated 15 poles, 54 top-five and 110 top-10 finishes. Schrader also scored his career-best Cup points finish – a fourth-place finish in 1994.
Then in 1997, Schrader moved to the fledgling Andy Petree Racing. In three years, Schrader claimed five poles and 25 top-10 finishes.
Schrader drove for MB2 Motorsports from 2000 to 2002, where he posted seven more top-10 finishes.
In 2003, Schrader moved to BAM Motorsports and the No. 49 Dodge. In his two-and-a-half seasons behind the wheel of the No. 49 Schwan’s Home Services Dodge, Schrader has added five top-10 finishes to his resume (through SearsPoint on June 26, 2005).
Over the past 20 years in the Nextel Cup Series, Schrader has collected a total 640 starts and more than $25 million in earnings. He has four wins to his credit in the Nextel Cup ranks (Talladega, 1988; Charlotte 1989; Atlanta, 1991; Dover, 1991) as well as 64 top-five and 181 top-10 finishes. Schrader has also led the field to the green flag on 23 occasions during his career.
Schrader’s record behind the wheel of his Schrader Racing entries is just as impressive.
He has claimed 25 victories in a variety of series since Schrader Racing were formed in 1987. The Schrader Racing team has also won 17 races with other drivers at the helm. And these numbers don’t begin to include the numerous time Schrader has taken top honors at dirt tracks.
In addition to his Nextel Cup duties in 2005, Schrader will again tackle a hectic Schrader Racing schedule. Plans call for Schrader to run 17 races in four different series (Craftsman Truck, NASCAR Southwest, NASCAR West and ARCA). He’ll also compete in more than 20 races at various dirt tracks.
Busy, yes. But Schrader wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I want to spend my time racing,” Schrader said. “It’s not only my job, but it’s also my hobby. I love the time that I get to spend behind the wheel, and as long as I can, I’m going to race whenever I get the chance.”
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