Kenny Schrader, A Racer’s Racer

Elkhart Lake, Wis. – Kenny Schrader, 56, has raced all over the United States in the last 40 years, and during these decades of racing, he’s raced in nearly every state at tracks far and wide. Regardless, he’s always looking for new tracks to try out, and he found one this weekend in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, at the picturesque Road America road course. Having never seen the course before, the veteran driver hopped into RSR Motorsports Mini Cooper and took his introductory laps during a rainstorm.

While yesterday’s racers competed almost nightly, today’s drivers compete once or twice a week or even less frequently. Schrader is a throwback to the old days and it’s not uncommon for him to race three or four times a week, often in his dirt late model where the purses are small but the competition is keen.

For the week of June 19, Schrader raced and won at Kankakee County Speedway and at the Highland Speedway, both in Illinois and had another one rained out. Leaving victory lane at Highland on Wednesday evening, he drove all night to Elkhart Lake to begin preparations for Friday’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event and thereafter he headed to Indiana’s lightning-fast Winchester Speedway to oversee see his ARCA team in action with Tommy Hessert behind the wheel. (Hessert finished fifth.)

So far in 2011, Schrader has raced his dirt late model 20 times and has won nine times. In addition, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner Frank Stoddard recruited him for a handful of Cup races and has extended the invitation for more dates. Schrader may do so but it doesn’t seem to be priority at the moment.

Shortly, Schrader and his small dirt-car team will hit the trail again for races in Canada, North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. These races do not offer large amounts of money, but the much-traveled driver is eager for the opportunity to hit the road, sort of like Charles Kuralt with his acclaimed “On the Road” series on CBS television.

Along with owning an ARCA team, Schrader has been a regular on SPEED and has recently added ESPN to his agenda. He believes the television work offers considerable long-range potential, plus he enjoys the experience.

Also, he operates the I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., and is part owner of tracks in Illinois and Kentucky.

For the Continental Tire event at Road America, Schrader co-drove with businessman Dicky Riegel, a long-time friend. Riegel is the group president of Thor Industries, a leading manufacturer of motor coaches used by race teams and other travelers. Schrader started out as a customer of Riegel’s, and this relationship blossomed into a friendship.

“Knowing that he loves to be in a car at any time, I thought this (Road America) race might be a new experience for him,” Riegel said. “And it is an opportunity for me to learn from one of the best in the business. It is an honor for me to share the car with him. Since he’s been here, he has given me a ton of pointers. Also, the entire paddock seems to enjoy having around, and he makes everyone feel at ease.”

Schrader has participated in dealership presentations with Riegel’s company and, in turn, Schrader has hosted Riegel and Thor’s corporate guests at the I-55 Raceway. “I have been sideways on the dirt with Kenny and my guests,” Riegel noted. “I enjoyed driving sideways with him as did our customers.”

At Road America, the duo started far back in the field and ended up 10th in the Street Tuner class, which was a good outing for the two friends.

After the post-race activities concluded, Schrader took to the road again, heading to Winchester to rendezvous with his wife and their ARCA team. While journeying down the road, he undoubtedly entertained enjoyable thoughts about the Road America experience and was looking for a new track to add to his schedule.

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