Ken Schrader may just be the oldest winner in the history of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, but he is no doubt the happiest after taking the checkered flag first in the Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care this weekend at Toledo Speedway.
And in Schrader’s own words, he is simply an almost 58 year old driver that is “just having fun.”
“Well, being the oldest winner is sure better than being the oldest loser,” Schrader said with a laugh. “I love it.”
“That’s five (at Toledo) and we’ll take it.”
Schrader started on the outside pole in his No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet and led 163 laps in the event on his way to securing the win. Schrader was especially pleased as he has not been in an ARCA car for quite some time.
“I haven’t run an ARCA race in two and a half years because Tom Hessert from New Jersey has been driving our car,” Schrader said. “He did a good job and ran for us the last two years but he is doing something different this year.”
“So, we picked out a handful of races that Federated Auto Parts wanted to run and this was the first one,” Schrader continued. “We qualified second and won the thing.”
Schrader, as one of the older veterans in the field, battled a bit with the youngest pole winner in the ARCA Series, Kyle Benjamin, who took that honor at the tender age of 15 years. But Schrader admitted that his biggest competition was Grant Enfinger, who he battled side by side at one point in the race but who eventually cut down a tire to finish 15th.
“Kyle, we didn’t fight with too much,” Schrader said. “I just fell in behind him at the start and we went about 20 laps and we got around him and then he had some trouble.”
“But Grant Enfinger – he looks young compared to me but he’s not young, young – he was really the strongest car all day,” Schrader continued. “I had a lot of fun racing with him.”
Schrader admits that, while he enjoys racing at the highest levels of NASCAR, the ARCA Series has a special place in his heart.
“Well, first off I still love the Cup Series but we’re just too old to play that game week in and week out,” Schrader said. “And that takes too much sponsorship.”
“The ARCA Series, where you run tracks like three-eighths at Elko to Talladega to mile dirt tracks to road courses, I just love the diversity of the ARCA Series.”
And of course Schrader receives a hero’s welcome whenever he does race in the ARCA events, just like he did at the Toledo event, although he modestly disagrees with that.
“I’m no hero,” Schrader said. “I’ve just been there lots of times.”
“It’s different now because there are so many young kids coming up and they’re doing a phenomenal job,” Schrader said. “Veteran Frank (Kimmel) has been there a long time and I’ve been there off and on for quite awhile.”
“A lot of folks in the grand stands don’t know the young kids yet so they just remember us or their parents told them about us.”
Although this was Schrader’s 61st ARCA start, he is not so impressed with that. Instead, he would much rather talk about the number of races he won in the series, which he does admit is pretty impressive.
“61 starts are not very many though,” Schrader said. “I think we ran our first one in 1981 or so.”
“So, that’s 60 some over all those years,” Schrader continued. “The most I’ve run in a year is five or so.”
“But we’ve won 16 of them.”
Schrader is not just running the ARCA Series this year but also has many other races on his dance card. And admittedly being behind the wheel of a race car is what keeps him going and traveling all over the country.
“We’re running the Sprint Cup car ten times and then we’re going to run a couple of Truck races, Bristol and the Eldora, Ohio Truck race on the dirt,” Schrader said. “And then we’re running four or five ARCA races and my little dirt modified somewhere between 60 to 70 nights.”
“Last year, we ran in 18 states and the year before in 22 states, Schrader continued. “So, we go all over with that thing.”
“I don’t know,” Schrader said. “I must not be very smart because I still get up in the morning and want to go race.”
At this weekend’s race, however, Schrader also paid tribute to Dick Trickle, a NASCAR legend that was lost due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound this past week.
“There are so many of us across the country that Dick has taught,” Schrader said. “We learned from talking to him and racing with him.”
“There’s young kids that he has taught, guys my age that he taught, and racers that are now retired that he taught,” Schrader continued. “He was one of the smartest racers there was.”
“There’s so many of us that Dick raised, like Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin and Kenny Wallace,” Schrader said. “What we learned from talking to him and listening to him as well as watching him was amazing.”
“I hate, hate what happened there but I know that he had to really be in some pain to do that.”
In spite of that pain and loss, Schrader was in full celebration mode after scoring the ARCA win. But he puts it all in perspective as only Ken Schrader can.
“It was a real fun day that obviously put Federated Auto Parts in Victory Lane,” Schrader said. “But when we wake up tomorrow, it doesn’t make any difference and we just have to get ready to go to Elko.”
“I feel good about our sport though,” Schrader continued. “We had a good weather day and a packed grandstand out at the ARCA race.”
“It doesn’t get any better than that.”