NASCAR Winston Cup Brickyard 400 Preview -- #33, Ken Schrader
24 July 1997
#33 Ken Schrader, Skoal Bandit Chevrolet Monte Carlo NASCAR Winston Cup Series Brickyard 400 Advance Indianapolis Motor Speedway OPEN WHEEL AND WIDE OPEN Indianapolis, IN - The Brickyard. Full of tradition and history, the very words echo the names of past driving greats such as Wilbur Shaw, Bill Vukovich, and most recently, A.J. Foyt. Early in his career it appeared that Kenny Schrader, now the driver of the Winston Cup Skoal Bandit Racing Chevrolet #33, would follow his hero, A.J. Foyt, to open wheel greatness. Schrader had all the crucial ingredients to make a successful open wheel champion. Much like Foyt, Schrader quickly found success in every open wheel division. He started racing midgets where he accumulated 45 victories, 21 of them in the USAC National Series. Schrader's resume is long and impressive, as is Foyt's, with wins in stock cars, Silver Crown cars, sprints and midgets. He was the 1983 USAC Sprint Car champion, 1982 USAC Silver Crown champion and the 1980 USAC Stock Car Rookie of the Year. Over the years, Schrader has earned 12 victories in other USAC divisions. Foyt's impact on Schrader shows in his versatility behind the wheel. Schrader grew up watching Foyt dazzle both fans and peers alike in everything he drove. "We used to go to the Illinois State Fair on Labor Day weekend," says Schrader. "They'd race USAC midgets on Saturday, USAC stock cars on Sunday and Silver Crown cars on Monday. A.J. would run great in all three divisions. He became my hero because he raced and won in everything, something I wanted to do." Schrader finally got his chance to race against his hero, Foyt, in the late '70's "We were at DuQuoin, Ill., a one-mile, semi-banked dirt oval at the fairgrounds," Schrader remembers. "In 1978 I finally got the opportunity to compete against A.J. He was on the pole and I was starting third, right behind him. On the parade lap I bumped him pretty good just to say that I had. I was afraid I would never get another chance to race against him in the future. I am sure he wasn't impressed by my 'love tap,' but he didn't hold it against me." Schrader seemed to have the same blueprint for his career as Foyt. Both came up through the ranks racing modifieds, stock cars, midget and sprint cars at tracks like DuQuoin, Springfield and Terre Haute. At the split in the long road of midget and sprint car racing, Schrader steered left to NASCAR and Foyt steered right to Indy cars. "I thought there would be longevity in stock car racing," explains Schrader. "I met some Ford Racing executives, Lee Morse and Michael Kranefuss, and begged them for an opportunity to get into a Winston Cup ride. Eventually they introduced me to Elmo Langley, and I rented his Ford for five races. I brought the car home in one piece and Junie Donlavey hired me to run for Rookie of the Year in 1985." Schrader's path into NASCAR led him to four Winston Cup victories and 19 pole positions as of July 1997. His opportunities to compete against Foyt during his career were limited. Foyt competed regularly in the Daytona 500 and the Firecracker 400 since 1963 and sporadically raced in other NASCAR events. But the main focus of his racing career was clearly in the Indy series. The most memorable match for Schrader and Foyt came in 1994. "I went to Indy three years ago to compete in the inaugural Brickyard 400 and Foyt came out of retirement for the event," recalls Schrader. "It was so neat to see Foyt again at Indy. I admire him so much for his toughness and determination, but also his ability to succeed at every level." Schrader hopes that Foyt's success at Indy will eventually catch up to him, especially at the Brickyard 400. Foyt is the first four-time winner of the Indy 500 and the only driver to start 35 consecutive Indianapolis 500 races (1958-1992). Schrader has walked down a similar path as Foyt and is looking to follow his footsteps across the bricks to victory lane. By Events & Outings, Inc.