Ken Schrader is old enough to qualify for a seniors’ discount on public transit in the Niagara Region, but the Eisenhower-era baby boomer – first term! – is too young to hang up his helmet and his firefighter outfit.
While the Fenton, Mo. native has raced on tracks and sidewalks since getting behind the wheel of a 1964 Impala recreational car at age 16, ‘retirement’ is a word. that you won’t find in his vocabulary.
It certainly wasn’t Saturday night when he got behind the wheel of a 358 Modified owned by St. Catharines’ Pete Bicknell and raced in the 35-lap finale at Merrittville Speedway in Thorold.
” No no ! I’m still having too much fun, so I’m going to milk it a little longer,” Schrader, who turned 67 last month, said with a laugh.
“I still have so much fun. If I wasn’t, I could quit but I don’t want to quit yet.
He first raced competitively in 1971 on a “little cobbled track in Missouri,” kicking off a 29-year career from 1984 to 2013 in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“It was our daily job for a long time.”
Schrader has “no idea” how many different categories of cars and trucks he has raced in over the years.
“We’ve raced everything you can imagine, every type of off-road car,” he said after reflection. “I didn’t use a rear engine. That’s the only thing I didn’t race.
“Back then, we won the USAC Sprint Car Championship. Won a ton of USAC Midget races. We won the Silver Crown Championship.
Schrader, owner of a track in Missouri and co-owner of another in Illinois, keeps busy racing dirt and paved tracks across North America. On Friday night, he finished second at Ohsweken Speedway racing his own car in a 25-lap modified DIRTcar UMP feature.
He won a truck race in New Mexico two weeks ago.
“We stay busy. I run my own stuff most of the time, but last month we ran a lot of other people’s stuff,” said Schrader, who lives in the St. Louis area.
After more than 50 years of carving his way on dirt and paved tracks, he has no preference for racing surfaces.
“I don’t care. I’m probably partial to dirt. You can get around. Schrader said. “I think the rider can do more.
“You can just do more.”
With over five decades of seat time, is he a better driver than when he started out because he knows where to go and how to get there?
“I don’t think the reflexes slow down much if you don’t stop doing it,” he replied. “Now I know I can’t race 200 miles an hour against kids like they race in Cup cars now.
“You have to be very, very on top of your game.”
“I know that, but you can still go to smaller tracks and race well.”
So far this year, Schrader has picked up three wins along with a “ton of seconds and thirds.”
“We’re off to a good year, we’re not ready to give up yet.”
His ride in a modified 358, a class he’s raced in “a dozen times,” resulted in a 16th-place finish at Merrittville on Saturday night.
Mat Williamson of St. Catharines led a top five of Gary Lindberg, Fred Carleton, Bicknell and Boyd McTavish across the finish line for his fourth win of the season at his hometown track and 12th overall in 33 departures this year.
Jacob Dykstra and fellow Port Colborne racer Clinton Barrick set the pace in the Action Sprint Tour and 4-Cylinder events, respectively, while Wainfleet’s Adam Leslie took the checkered flag in the Sportsman main event.
Here are the top five and the winners of Saturday night’s program round:
Corr/Pak Merchandising 358 Modified, LP: 1. Mat Williamson, 2. Gary Lindberg, 3. Fred Carleton, 4. Pete Bicknell, 5. Boyd McTavish. Round winners: Scott Wood, Williamson, Carleton. Land: 18.
Action Sprint Tour Powered by Pinty’s, 25 laps: 1. Jacob Dykstra, 2. Darren Dryden, 3. Allan Downey, 4. Austin Roes, 5. Brett Stratford. Round winners: Mike Bowman, Dykstra, Joshua Hill. Land: 23.
Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman 25 Laps: 1. Adam Leslie, 2. Billy Bleich Jr., 3. Terry Smith, 5. Round winners: Trevor Wright, Jason VanMil, McPherson. Field: 20.
Vansickle Pet Valu/PV on the 4-cylinder, 15-turn lane: 1. Clinton Barrick, 2. Tyler Lafantaisie, 3. Ken Hair, 4. Austyn Werstroh, 5. Trevor DeBoer. Round winners: Barrick, Jay Moulton, Vincent Pagnotta. Land: 24.
Race teams from the Hoosier Stock, Mod Lite and V6 divisions had the evening free.
Monster trucks, freestyle motocross and school bus racing were all on Sunday when Merrittville wrapped up back-to-back programs with a Sunday matinee.
The five regular divisions — 358 Modified, Sportsman, Hoosier Stock, Mod Lite, 4-Cylinders — are set to go green next Saturday. The pit doors open at 5 p.m., the grandstand at 5.30 p.m. with the first race scheduled for 7 p.m.
Follow the conversation: Mat Williamson, 358 edited; Justin Mills, Modified UMP DIRTcar; Dave Bailey, Thunder Stock; Casey Hoffman, Thunder Stock, Main B; Tyler Lafantaisie, Mini Stock; Don Deagle, Mini Stock, Main B; ended Friday night in victory lane at Ohsweken Speedway southeast of Brantford … Ridgeway’s Noah Mamo set the tone in the Novice Sportsman feature at Ransomville Speedway in western New York for the second time in so many departures.