By the time the Central Illinois SuperChevyStores.com ARCA 100 comes to life on the Illinois State Fairgrounds Mile Dirt in Springfield Aug. 21, the Cunningham Motorsports 22 car will see its eighth different driver of the season, and this guy ain’t no slouch.
Ken Schrader will be aboard the Cunningham Motorsports Ford for the 54th running of the SuperChevyStores.com 100 on the world’s fastest mile dirt track. The historic event will coincide with the 164th annual Illinois State Fair, ongoing since 1853.
“We were talking some place,” Schrader explained. “They were running the points on the car, and I said, ‘If you ever need somebody to drive that thing, I’m available.’ We were just shooting the bull … next thing I know we got a deal.”
The addition of Schrader to the Cunningham stable will pair the 61-year-old veteran with another veteran for the race — NASCAR Sprint Cup champion crew chief Paul Andrews, who crew chiefs the 22 in addition to managing the team.
“I’ve always been a big fan (of Andrews),” Schrader continued. “But, you pretty much just run what you had last year … practice for eight laps, then race. It’s not like you work on a set-up all day. You already know the track’s gonna change, and you only have to pit once. I know someone did (pit twice) and everyone thinks they gotta, but just once will do.”
Most of Schrader’s racing these days is in his dirt modified on bullrings across America and Canada.
“We won one in Idaho Falls, Idaho and another one in Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada. Ran (recently) in Iowa … Lake County Speedway. Didn’t do too well. Started 15th … finished fifth.”
Running one-hundred-plus events a year is nothing new for the American racing icon; he’s been doing it for decades. If he tends to downplay his amazing story, he full-well understands the significance of racing the mile dirts.
“I think it’s awesome. That’s the thing about the ARCA Series that I enjoy so much. Mile dirts, half-mile paved, 2.5-mile superspeedways, road courses … you name it; we got it. Springfield and DuQuoin are as much a part of ARCA as anywhere. ARCA inherited the history of those two races … kept it going.”
Fortunately, Schrader keeps going too. “Let’s see … running a modified at Pevely,” he said a few weeks ago. “First we have a lunch in Kansas Thursday…we’re getting inducted in an old guy deal in Belleville, Kansas. Friday and Saturday is Pevely. Gonna go to Knoxville and watch Wednesday. We race in Britt, Iowa Thursday and Friday…Terre Haute Sunday … not sure past that. We’ll make it through the weekend for sure.”
Schrader became the oldest ARCA winner in history at 59 with his win at Salem Speedway in April of 2015, surpassing the same mark he set by winning at 58 at DuQuoin in 2013. He has 80 career starts since 1981 with 18 career wins, including Springfield in 1998. He also has 20 pole awards, 50 top-five finishes, 63 top-10s and has led 2,732 laps in 43 races.
He’s also made more than 700 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts with wins at Charlotte, Dover, Talladega and Atlanta. Two-time Bud Shootout winner at Daytona. Three-time Daytona 500 polesitter. Top-10 in Sprint Cup points eight times. USAC Silver Crown Series champion ’82. USAC Sprint Car champion ’83.
Story and photo courtesy ARCA Racing Series