TOLEDO, Ohio – According to Ken Schrader, racing at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds is a throwback to the old days.
Those old days are very special to the 59-year-old veteran driver.
“Springfield and DuQuoin were the really big races that we went to as kids,” Schrader said. “Went to DuQuoin for the first time in ’64, slept in the back of my daddy’s station wagon. It was hard to believe that there was anything bigger. We didn’t get to go to Daytona, so to me, there was nothing bigger than Springfield and DuQuoin. Back then, they raced Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday during fair week. All my heroes were there.”
And in Schrader’s eyes, the State Fair championship races at the fairgrounds still rank among the biggest and best.
“Those events today are still special to me. It’s just a different deal with the fairs going on. The show takes on a different light. They’re special events.
“Back when we were running Cup, the crew would get the car to the fair, we’d always come up early, get together with the Allgaiers, take Dorothy (his daughter) and Justin (Allgaier) to the fair. When the racing was done, we’d stay at the Allgaiers’ house Sunday night. It was a lot of fun.”
Schrader is entered in both the SuperChevyStores.com 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Aug. 17 and in the Southern Illinois 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds Labor Day Sept. 1. He won at Springfield driving for Ed Rensi in 1998 and at DuQuoin three times, in 2006, 2007 and 2013 in his own Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet. Schrader’s win at DuQuoin last year marked the Fenton, Missouri native – then 58 – as the oldest ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards winner in history.
“Springfield and DuQuoin are throwbacks to the old days…it’s how our sport started at fairgrounds tracks across the country. Just regular old stock cars on dirt because that’s what we had most of back then. Fortunately, the tradition carried on.
“Most of the mile-dirts are gone, but the state of Illinois still has the mile dirt championship stock car races. Outside of the big modifieds at Syracuse, Ill. s is all that’s left. In many ways, and for many great drivers, it started at Springfield and DuQuoin. These events are not only great family fun, but very important to the character and traditions of our sport.”
In typical Schrader style, he’ll race his way to Springfield.
“Wednesday’s a question mark,” he said. “We’ll find somewhere to race Friday. We’ll run Macon Saturday, and the ARCA race at Springfield Sunday.”
It seems like a lot for an elder statesman of the sport, but, for Schrader, it’s the norm; he’s been doing it this way for decades. With more than 700 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts and 17 career ARCA wins, he spends most of his time these days circling dirt bullrings across America in his Federated Auto Parts-sponsored dirt modified. In fact, he will already have as many as 70 races in the books this year prior to landing at Springfield. There were also at least 12 other races that were rained out. He’s won seven times so far this year, all in dirt modifieds, and all over the country.
“We’ve got seven (wins) right now,” Schrader said. “Terre Haute, the Summer Nationals in Macon, Columbus, Miss., Flora, Ill., Hohenwald, Tenn., Escanaba, Mich. and Colorado; I think that’s seven.”