For some racing is a hobby, others a passion, and for a few, it is a way of life. Ken Schrader has considered auto racing his life’s ambition since he was barely out of diapers.
“My daddy, Bill, raced at the local tracks when I was growing up and it’s all I ever wanted to do. I just never wanted to do anything else.”
It started with a backyard go-kart at age 3, and at the age of 16 Schrader was strapped in to do battle at his local Missouri short tracks.
From 1971 into the early 1980s, Schrader proved his talent time and time again, and in 1984 he found himself a regular in NASCAR’s premier division.
Although competing for more than two decades in the Cup Series and picking up four victories, Schrader has never lost his passion for short-track racing.
While he is extremely proud of his USAC championships, Schrader’s racing philosophy is simple: “What happened yesterday is in the past. We are looking ahead and hoping to have the best night, every night.”
And even though he has often juggled series obligations and sponsor commitments, Schrader has never strayed from the heart of racing, competing in more than 90 events annually, varying from Cup, Truck, ARCA, late models, modifieds and pretty much anything else with four wheels.
Even though Schrader has no intention of backing down his racing program, in recent years he has added the title of track owner to his schedule.
I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., has been under the control of Schrader and Ray Marlar for the past 14 seasons. In recent years, he has partnered up as a co-owner of Paducah (Ky.) Int’l Raceway and Macon (Ill.) Speedway.
Having years of experience on the opposite side of the catch fence often gives Schrader a different perspective when it comes to running a racing program.
“You’re really not going to make everyone happy all the time, but when the drivers are happy, usually the fans are happy,” said Schrader. “It’s no different than any other business. You just have to give a good service at a reasonable price. Our job is to have good races, get you in there, start on time and get you out in about three hours, and not send you home dirty. That’s what it’s all about.”
Putting on a good show is something Schrader is familiar with. The man’s passion for the sport is infectious and his desire to win is evident no matter what or where he is competing.
Though he has recently not been running a strict schedule, the ARCA RE/MAX Series, where Schrader has had many past successes, remains one of his favorite sanctioning bodies and Ken Schrader Racing is currently working on sponsorship to pursue a run at the ARCA title in the future.
A schedule like Schrader’s does not permit for much downtime and the Missouri native wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My favorite place to be is at the shop,” Schrader said. But when he is not there or at the track, you will usually find him and his wife, Ann, motorcycling from one speedway to the next or spending time with their children — 19-year-old Dorothy and 13-year-old Sheldon.
For nearly four decades, Ken Schrader has been earning the respect of his competitors and the hearts of fans.
His ever-ready smile and on-track determination make him a fan favorite no matter the venue, and he remains one of the greatest ambassadors short-track racing has ever known.