By Jay Hardin
Monitor company personnel
Springfield, IL (August 18, 2021) – Excitement over the return of the Illinois State Fair and the annual auto racing weekend was heightened today when it was announced that the 1982 USAC Silver Crown champion NASCAR star and fan favorite Ken Schrader will return to drive one of the big cars in the annual Bettenhausen 100 Championship race on Saturday. Schrader has won events on the Springfield Mile in virtually every type of racing car imaginable except one, the 96-inch wheelbase beasts whose lineage dates back to the earliest days of motor racing.
One of the best known and most versatile drivers in American auto racing, Schrader has raced for over 40 years. He continues to ride short tracks across the United States competing against local and national heroes while taking the time to sign autographs or pose for photos with his legions of fans. Victory, versatility and an endearing personality made him one of the most popular racing drivers in the country.
His foray into high-profile auto racing began with his debut in the USAC Stock Car in 1979. A year later, Ken secured a race in the last event of the 1980 USAC Silver Crown Series as a teammate with Gary Bettenhausen in the powerful Delrose-Holt team. He immediately put the car on pole for the 1980 MAB Paints 100 at Terre Haute, his first start in one of the big cars. Ken was very lucky in 1981 when southern Indiana car owner Damon G. “Blackie” Fortune hired Schrader to drive his Silver Crown machine.
Schrader’s Rose Brothers-sponsored Beck chassis did not win a race in 1982, although it came close to winning the 100-mile dream event at Springfield in May 1982 and the season finale in Nazareth. Fellow driver Sheldon Kinser ceded his race from Ben Leyba to Schrader, allowing Ken to race and win the crown. It was this gesture that prompted Ken and his wife to name their son Sheldon.
Schrader has six starts in the Silver Crown cars in Springfield with three top ten. His last start was for owner George Middleton in 1985. While he made an attempt for Dennis McQuinn in 2018, if Ken was on the field on Saturday it will be a record 36 years between championship starts at Springfield. . What else did Ken Schrader do on the Springfield Mile? Well, he won the Allen Crowe 100 ARCA race in 1998, the Midget Rex Easton Memorial USAC race in 1983, and the Modified event in June 1998.
This Saturday, Ken Schader returns to the wheel of the car formerly driven by Jeff Swindell and owned by the late Mark Swanson. The car finished third at Springfield in 2017 and recorded a second, third and fourth at Du Quoin with Swindell.
August 21 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Silver Crown Series race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and the 87e anniversary of the first national championship race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Big car practice starts at 10 a.m. with Fatheadz Eyewear qualifying at 11:30 a.m. The departure of the Bettenhausen 100 is scheduled around 2 p.m. Tickets are available by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200 or the Illinois State Fair Box Office.
The event is part of a huge race weekend in central Illinois with Lincoln Speedway with MOWA Sprint Cars Friday night, Silver Crown Saturday at Springfield Mile, Jack Hewitt Night with POWRi Midgets at Macon Speedway Saturday night, and the ARCA Menards Sunday afternoon series at Springfield Mile.
Full event information is available at www.trackenterprises.com