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Ozark HoF Awaits Schrader

Ken Schrader - Kenny Shaw pic

Ken Schrader, before the MLRA Spring Nationals at Lucas Oil Speedway last April, is among the inductees into the 2018 Ozarks Area Racers’ Hall of Fame. Ceremonies are set for Jan. 6 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield, Mo. (Kenny Shaw photo)

Ken Schrader has been driving race cars for nearly 50 years and he has no plans on slowing down soon. The St. Louis native entered 65 dirt-track events in 2017, including two nights of the Spring Nationals at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri.

“I’m sure we’ll hit that spring-time show at Wheatland again next year,” the 62-year-old Schrader said, looking ahead to another busy driving schedule in his Modified for 2018.

Long known as one of the busiest drivers in the country, including his three-decade career as a NASCAR regular, Schrader also co-owns several dirt tracks and a championship Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) team.

Proud of his Midwestern racing roots, Schrader said he’s humbled to be part of the 10-person induction class for the Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Hall of Fame on Jan. 6. Former NASCAR driver and fellow Missourian Carl Edwards along with St. Louis’ Mike Mittler are among those joining Schrader as honorees at the event, at the Ozarks Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex in Springfield.

Ken Schrader

Ken Schrader

Joining Schrader and Edwards in the “Legend” or driving category are Jim Campbell of Harrison, Ark., James Taylor of Fair Grove and the late Daryl Williams of Springfield. Inductees in the “Pioneer” division (for non-drivers) along with NASCAR Truck Series team owner Mittler include former Springfieldian Bob Aton, businessman and racing booster Chris Davis, and mechanics Lonnie Snodgrass and Dan Williams of Springfield.

“When I look at the names going in, I’m quite honored,” Schrader said. “I grew up in Missouri, but I didn’t get to race in the Ozarks as much as I really wanted to when I was young. That’s when Springfield was a real hot bed for racing. We had a lot of tracks in the St. Louis area back then and I raced closer to home.

“When those guys would come up to St. Louis and race with us, it was, ‘Oh my gosh, the boys are in town.’ I was a huge Larry Phillips fan. Dean Roper probably helped me as much as anyone in my career as far as driving. So yeah, this means a lot to me.”

Schrader said he raced a few times on the old half-mile asphalt track at the Springfield Fairgrounds as a teen, driving car No. 100. He called it a big-time deal whenever he rolled into the Fairgrounds, where the fans came out in force as Phillips usually ruled the place and youngsters like Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin cut their racing teeth.

Ray Bollinger (77) racing Ken Schrader

Ray Bollinger (77) racing Ken Schrader (Jim DenHamer pic)

Schrader went on to achieve big-time success, making 763 NASCAR Cup Series starts. He won four races and had 184 top-10 finishes, all the while spending much of his spare time in between traveling the country racing on dirt tracks.

It’s a lifestyle that has continued after retirement from the top level. The past season saw Schrader race 65 times, which he called “down a little bit” from previous years mainly due to 18 rainouts. He won nine times in his Federated Auto Parts Modified.

Another highlight came in the ARCA Series where his young driver, Austin Theriault, won seven of 20 races en route to the championship driving the Federated Auto Parts Ford.

“We’re happy because it looks like Austin is going to be able to move up the ladder and that’s always the goal with a young driver,” Schrader said. “We’ve in the process of signing a new driver and we should be able to announce that in the near future.”

Tickets to the 31st annual Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Reunion and Hall of Fame event are $20 at the door or $15 in advance at area O’Reilly Auto Parts locations. Doors open at 4 p.m. with an autograph session from 5-6:30 p.m. with a separate question-and-answer forum that will include past Hall of Fame inductees. The Salute to Area Track Champions and the induction program will begin shortly after 6:30.

Race cars and other racing memorabilia will be on display and a silent auction will be held during the evening.

 The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks also will hold a blood drive from 2-5 p.m. that day in the Darr Family Lobby between the East and West Rooms at the E-Plex in honor of Mike Mittler and Brandon Riddle.

Mittler, the popular owner of MB Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, is battling Multiple Myeloma and will undergo an autologous stem cell transplant in February. Riddle, 33, is a four-time transplant recipient of three livers and a kidney. He pits for Ricky Icenhower, Rod Icenhower and his dad, Mark Riddle, at I-44 Speedway.


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