Schrader’s ex­pe­ri­ences at I-30 fiery and ex­cit­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SCOREBOARD - STEVE ROGERS

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.”

Schrader

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