Kenneth "Ken" Schrader (born May 29, 1955) is an American racing driver. He currently races on local dirt and asphalt tracks around the country while driving part-time in the ARCA Racing Series, as well as at Eldora Speedway in the Camping World Truck Series. He raced in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series from 1981 to 2005. He is a first cousin once removed of fellow NASCAR driver Carl Edwards.
He races in many racing divisions, and has been successful in any division he has stepped into. He owns a dirt late model and dirt open wheel modified car. Both of these cars, along with his Camping World Truck Series and ARCA series cars, are sponsored by Federated Auto Parts. He owns I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Missouri, and is co-owner of Macon Speedway, near Macon, Illinois, along with Kenny Wallace, Tony Stewart, and local promoter Bob Sargent.
During the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s, Schrader was running as many as 100 races among many types of racing, including NASCAR's national and regional touring series, ARCA, short track, and dirt track.
Schrader was born in Fenton, Missouri. In 1971, he was the sportsmens champ at Lake Hill Speedway in Valley Park. That same year, he moved up to sprint cars, racing in various locations across the Midwest. In 1980, he started racing in USAC's Stock Car Division, and was the series' rookie of the year. He returned to USAC's Stock Car Division one year later, finishing third in points. Early in the decade, he moved to the USAC series, competing in its various sprint car competitions. Schrader attempted to qualify for the 1983 Indianapolis 500 but wrecked his car during practice. In the USAC series, he won four USAC sprint car races, six Silver Crown races, 21 in USAC midgets, and 24 midget races in other divisions.
Schrader made his NASCAR debut in 1984 in the Cup Series, leasing out the No. 64 Fordnormally owned and driven by Elmo Langley. He ran his first race at Nashville, qualifying 27th and finishing 19th in a 30-car field. He ran four more races out of the 64 that season, his best finish a seventeenth at North Wilkesboro Speedway. In 1985, he signed to drive the No. 90 Ultra Seal-sponsored Ford for Junie Donlavey full-time. He had three 10th-place finishes and finished 16th in points, winning rookie of the year honors. In 1986, Red Baron Frozen Pizza became the team's new primary sponsor, and Schrader had four top 10s, including a best finish of seventh twice, and finished 16th in the standings in points for the second consecutive season. In 1987, Schrader won his first career pole, at the TranSouth 500, where he led 19 laps and finished fifth, his first top five. He had nine other top 10s and finished 10th in the final standings. He also made his Busch Series debut, at North Carolina Speedway, finishing fifth in his own No. 45 Red Baron-sponsored Ford at North Carolina Speedway.
In 1988, Schrader moved over to the No. 25 Folgers-sponsored Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. In his first race, he won the pole for the Daytona 500, beginning a three-year streak in which he won the pole for that race. After failing to qualify for the following race and purchasing a racecar from Buddy Arrington, Schrader won his first career race, at the Talladega DieHard 500, and finished fifth in the final standings. He won his second career Cup race the following season at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and finished fifth in the standings again. He also earned his first career Busch Series win at the Ames/Peak 200.
Kodiak became Schrader's sponsor in 1990. Although he failed to win, he collected three poles, and seven top fives, dropping to 10th in points. In 1991, he got his third win, at the Motorcraft Quality Parts 500, at Dover International Speedway. He had nine total top five finishes and finished ninth in the final points standings. In 1992, he dropped to 17th in the standings after posting eleven top 10s. The following season, Schrader returned to ninth in the points and won a career-high six poles. He had his career-best points finish in 1994, when he finished fourth. He also won his most recent Busch race at Talladega.
In 1995, Budweiser became Schrader's primary sponsor. He won his final pole with Hendrick, at Pocono Raceway and dropped back to 17th in points. He survived a horrific crash in the DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. After he improved only to 12th in the standings in 1996, Schrader left Hendrick Motorsports after a nine-year association with the team.
In 1997, Schrader was hired to drive the No. 33 Skoal Bandit-sponsored Chevrolet Monte Carlo for Andy Petree Racing. He had eight top 10s and won two poles, finishing 10th in the standings, his most recent top 10 points finish. The following season, he posted three fourth-place finishes and won two poles over the last five races of the season. He won his final Cup pole, at Talladega, in 1999, but despite a 15th-place points run, Schrader failed to finish in the top five all year, and departed Petree.
Prior to the 2001 season, he signed to drive the No. 36 M&M's-sponsored Pontiac Grand Prix for MB2 Motorsports. In his first year of competition, he posted five top 10s, but dropped to 19th in the standings. While competing in the Daytona 500, he was involved in a final-lap crash where Dale Earnhardt crashed hard and could have lost his life had circumstances been different. In 2002, Schrader got 2 wins for the No. 36 M&M's MB2 Motorsports Pontiac, establishing the team as a true competitor. However, despite his seemingly improving career performance, MB2 Motorsports decided to replace Ken with Jerry Nadeau driving the #01 US Army Pontiac.
For 2003, despite an original lack of sponsorship, Schrader was announced as the part-time driver of the part-time No. 81 DEI Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which would participate in 7 races throughout the season. Soon Schwan Food Company became the team's primary sponsor. At the Brickyard 400, Schrader's qualifying time was too slow (and the team was out of provisionals) to make the field, the first time since 1984 that Schrader had missed a Cup race. He DNQ'd three more times that season and fell to 36th in points.
In 2004, Schrader went over to the No. 49 Dodge Charger (new Dodge model for 2004) of BAM Racing, unseating Kevin Lepage who had driven the No. 49 Dodge Intrepid in 2003. Schrader's previous sponsor, Schwan Food Company, became BAM's new sponsor, while Schrader had a sixth-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway. He had three more top 10s the following season and matched his previous year's run of 31st in points.
Retirement Year Edit
After a mild 2004 season, Ken Schrader decided 2005 would be his final season, also honoring a pact with Rusty Wallace that both would have their final season in 2005 (Dale Earnhardt had also been in this pact but decided to retire in 2003). Schrader got his last career win at Lowe's Motor Speedway and retired at the end of the 2005 season. BAM Racing was disbanded after they failed to find sponsorship in 2006. Despite his retirement from NASCAR, Ken still drives in the ARCA series and local tracks.