Schrader’s experiences at I-30 fiery and exciting
Ken Schrader remembers Little Rock’s I-30 Speedway. How could he ever forget it?
Schrader, who made more than 750 starts in NASCAR’s Cup series between 1984 and 2013, has always been a dirt racer at heart, maintaining a presence in that portion of the sport as a driver and track owner throughout his career.
He returns to I-30 tonight and Saturday night for the sixth annual Ed Jordan Memorial event for IMCA modifieds.
“It’s a nice little track. Real racy,” Schrader, 62, said this week. “We’ve been coming there, off and on, for years.”
It’s easy to see why he would remember the quarter-mile oval at the border between Pulaski and Saline counties:
■ In 2001, his most recent visit to the track, he survived a battle of attrition to win a midweek late model event.
■ During another midweek event, this time while driving a winged sprint car in the early 1980s, he was involved in a crash during which a front wheel from the car driven by Doug Wolfgang entered Schrader’s cockpit, breaking his shoulder.
■ In a National Dirt Racing Association late model race in the early 1980s, Schrader was slated to start from the pole. But there was a fuel leak and his car caught fire … on the parade lap.
■ In what appears to be his first visit to the track, in the early 1970s, when it was still known as the Benton Speedbowl, Schrader competed in a USAC midget event, earning a top-five finish.
“Yeah, we’ve kind of been all over the map at that place,” Schrader said, laughing. “We’ve won, ran well, I broke my shoulder and we caught fire before the race ever started. You can’t make this stuff up.”
A native of Fenton, Mo., Schrader now lives in Concord, N.C. His racing today primarily consists of IMCA modified events, although he competes in the ARCA stock car series for its dirt track events. On Wednesday night, he finished 17th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, the half-mile track track at Rossburg, Ohio.
He is the owner of one dirt track, Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo., and co-owns another, Macon (Ill.) Speedway, with former NASCAR racers Tony Stewart and Kenny Wallace.
NASCAR, which has struggled in recent years with falling attendance and TV ratings, could learn plenty from the world of dirt track racing, Schrader said. But he said he will not openly ridicule the sport.
“I don’t want to be like the guy who works somewhere for long time and then when he’s finished, talks about how messed up the job was,” he said. “I mean, I’m still a huge fan of NASCAR racing. There’s some areas that could be improved, but it’s not in a freefall by any means. It’s still a great product.”
Schrader said he is also proud that now, probably more than any other time, there are so many younger drivers who find time in their schedules to also race on dirt.
“Kyle Larson, Kasey [Kahne], Ricky Stenhouse, [Clint] Bowyer, [Christopher] Bell … all guys who either race on dirt or own dirt teams or both,” Schrader said. “It really makes me happy that there is such a good group of the younger guys, who just like to race. Believe me, racing in NASCAR is a job. But these guys enjoy it and when they get done, they go out and race somewhere else.”