There are those drivers who like to race and then there is Ken Schrader.
Nobody enjoys getting behind the wheel of a car
"any kind of car
" more than this 20-year veteran from Fenton, Mo.
Schrader is returning to the Ford stable to drive the No. 21 Little Debbie’s Ford, owned by the famed Wood Brothers, after Ricky Rudd announced last season that he was going to take a break from full-time duty.
Whether or not this will be Schrader’s final season remains to be seen, but it would be an appropriate finish considering his first full year in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series was with legendary Ford car owner Junie Donlavey in 1985.
In between Ford stints Schrader has posted four series victories in more than 650 starts. He’s finished in the top 10 a total of 182 times going into the 2006 season and been in the top five on 64 occasions. In addition, he’s earned more than $28 million in career earnings.
But money isn’t what drives Schrader. He has an unrivaled joy for racing and proves it on a weekly basis. Schrader will often drive in whatever companion event is at the track with the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, but he’ll also compete at dirt tracks or other touring series events during the week whether it be dirt or asphalt.
And while he gets great joy from driving sprint cars or trucks, Schrader has put an emphasis on Cup through the years. After winning rookie of the year honors in 1985 with Donlavey, Schrader moved over to Hendrick Motorsports in ‘88 and won all four of his races during a nine-year period.
Schrader registered his first win in ‘88 when he captured the Diehard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. He won at Charlotte a year later, which proved to be a breakout season as Schrader surpassed $1 million in season earnings for the first time and finished fifth in the point standings.
His other two triumphs came in ‘91 at Atlanta and Dover while his best career points finish came in ‘94 when he finished fourth. Overall, Schrader has finished in the final top-10 a total of eight times.
Besides his four series wins Schrader has won the pole 23 times, which includes three straight Daytona 500 poles from ‘88-90.
Schrader comes to the Wood Brothers after a three-year run with BAM Racing, where his experience helped that newly-formed team get established in NASCAR’s top division. Schrader registered that team’s top finish in ‘04 when he posted a sixth-place run at Bristol.
In addition to his four wins at the Cup level, Schrader
—like fellow Ford drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray
—has wins in all three of NASCAR’s marquee divisions. He owns two NASCAR Busch Series triumphs (Talladega, ’94, and Dover, ’89), and one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory (Santa Clarita, ’95).
Prior to making his Cup debut on July 14, 1984 with former competitor and pace car driver Elmo Langley, Schrader had enormous success in a number of other forms of racing.
He earned rookie of the year honors as part of the United States Auto Club stock car division in 1980, and then won the ‘82 USAC Silver Crown championship and the USAC Sprint Car championship one year later.
Even though racing takes him all over the country, Schrader has stayed true to his Midwestern roots. He owns I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., and for the past three years has hosted a “Night of Stars” event in which some of his Nextel Cup colleagues participate in an exhibition to raise money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp.