Ken Schrader still has fun despite 12 winless years

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2003

FONTANA, Calif. The other George Bush was president when Ken Schrader won his last race on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit. But that doesn't mean he's forgotten how to win.

He won the weekly late-model feature race Sunday at Interstate 55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., a racetrack he owns.

No other full-time driver currently in Winston Cup has gone as many races (384) without a victory. A losing streak on the senior circuit that dates back to 1991 has done little to change Schrader's demeanor. He remains one of the most-popular, best-spoken and most-charming figures in the sport.

He once finished a qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on his roof and laughed about it. He jokes about blowing engines.

Schrader has been able to sustain a career in Winston Cup, despite his problem finding Victory Lane, because his passion for racing remains infectious. And it doesn't seem to matter if it's a late model in Pevely or a Dodge Intrep-id at Daytona, Schrader just wants to race.

I'm at my shop every morning between 7 and 7:30,'' Schrader said as he prepared for what he hopes will be end of his dubious streak, this Sunday's Auto Club 500 at the California Speedway.

I try to go by the Winston Cup shop every day I'm home. That's all I want to do. I just dread the day I don't get to race. When I don't Winston Cup race, I'm still going to race. I'm going to race a bunch. Maybe run the truck (on the Craftsman Truck Series) for a couple of years and run the dirt car until I just can't drive it anymore.''

Schrader is one of five drivers to win at least one race on NASCAR's three premier national circuits Winston Cup, Busch and Craftsman Trucks. Two of those five, Darrell Waltrip and Mark Martin, join him as the only three to also win on the ARCA Re/Max Series.

But only Schrader has also won on the NASCAR Busch North Series, NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series and Winston West Series.

I'm not working,'' he said. I'm playing fulltime. It wears you out, but that's what I'm doing. I'm playing fulltime. I'm living the dream.''

In addition to the 36 races on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series for BAM Racing, the 47-year-old driver plans to compete in about 65 other races. If there's a finish line, count him in.

I enjoy going to the racetrack as much as I ever have. I'm going to run somewhere between 90 and 100 races this year. A whole lot of the races we go to isn't because they're a good deal or anything. It's just because I've got the night off and there's a race and I want to race in it. I'd say I've probably got more desire to race now than I ever have.''

Schrader was hired by Beth Ann and Tony Morgenthau to move their BAM Racing Dodge to the next level. That car used several drivers last year, including Shawna Robinson, and it struggled just to make the starting lineup.

Although the team only has a part-time sponsorship commitment from 1-800-CALL-ATT, the Morgenthaus promised to field a car for every race. They hope Schrader can bring the team stability and the necessary experience to close the gap on the other front-running teams.

Schrader has no teammates and some limited help by the Dodge factory. The team posted its first top-10 finish of the year at Martinsville, Va., on April 13, and it is making the slow, excruciating climb from obscurity.

Tenth isn't what we're shooting for,'' he said. We want to do better than that. But it's a real good start.

They're making some gains. We were very short on cars (at the beginning of this year). None of last year's cars were really legal (from last season). We've got cars lined up now and you can really see they're making gains.''

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