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Schrader Leaps At Chance To Drive Top Truck

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 1 2010

It will be Ken Schrader behind the wheel of the No. 2 Kevin Harvick Racing truck this weekend. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Kansas City, Kan. – When Ken Schrader got a text message from Kevin Harvick a couple of weeks ago, he didn’t know what to think. The message was kind of cryptic. Harvick simply asked if Schrader was available the weekend of the Kansas City Camping World Truck Series race.

“Hell, I figured he wanted me to drive his hauler up,” Schrader said.

Turns out what Harvick wanted was to put Schrader into the driver’s seat of the top truck in the series.

Schader didn’t have to think too long before saying yes.

“It’s not just another race because it’s a team you want to drive for,” Schrader said. “I’m thrilled by it.”

It takes something to thrill Schrader. The man has driven it all and, seemingly, been driving it forever.

Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 will represent his 92nd start in the Camping World series. To go along with that, Schrader has driven in 732 Sprint Cup races and 115 Nationwide races.

He’s driven for Hendrick Motorsports, he’s driven for some teams new fans have never heard of or can’t remember.

He’s driven in series some fans have never heard at places that some fans never will hear about.

Schrader’s pro career began in the early 1980s. It’s still going strong as Schrader estimates he will race 80 to 85 times this year.

Schrader, who will turn 55 at the end of the month, has one of the more crowded calendars in racing.

But a chance to drive a Kevin Harvick Inc. truck at a place like Kansas Speedway, that is something that doesn’t come along all that often for Schrader these days.

“If this was just another truck, it would be just another race,” Schrader said. “This isn’t that.”

Schrader is in the No. 2 truck this weekend at Kansas. It’s the truck which Harvick has driven to two victories this season. Harvick also drove it to a second-place finish in a third race.

It was not entered at Daytona so, in three runnings, the worse the truck has finished is second. It leads the series in owner points.

With the Sprint Cup Series racing in Richmond, Va. on Saturday night, the seat became available and Harvick set to texting.

Schrader, who has never driven for Harvick before, was asked why he got the text.

“I didn’t ask why,” Schrader said. “We’ve always gotten along pretty good.”

Schrader said that they almost worked together before – way before texting became a possibility, much less an obsession – but that time it was Schrader doing the hiring.

“I saved his career,” Schrader said. “I didn’t hire him. If he’d have driven my stuff, he wouldn’t have made it. He’s still be back in Bakersfield. He owes me big.”

Self depricating humor aside, Harvick and most others in stock car racing know Schrader can drive. Anything. Still.

He last drove regularly in the Cup series in 2006, though he did do significant stints in 2007 and 2008.

He drove in five truck races during that time.

Sunday’s race will be his second of the season as he drove at Martinsville where he finished 28th in a truck he owns himself.

Quite a difference, Schrader said after practicing the No. 2 for the first time.

“The truck is really fast and it feels great,” he said. “I haven’t gone this fast in the last few weeks. I thought running at Pevely was fast, but man this truck is great. I just have to get myself adjusted in the seat with the belts and wheel and stuff. Were going to be really fast here. I had to talk with Ron [Hornaday] about the feel of his truck and make sure we were both on the same page with the lines we are running but I’m really excited to be driving the No. 2 Shopezgo.com Chevrolet this weekend at Kansas.”

Next week, Schrader will be back traveling the back roads with some kind of Modified or Late Model in tow, more concerned about racing than pushing product.

“You talk about some circuses,” Schrader said, “we’ve been to some circuses. Both big and small” over the years. “We’ve been all over this country already this year.”

Does he miss the Big Circus? Would he like to do it again?

Only the chance at winning races would make it all worthwhile.

“Obviously you’ve got to do your part,” he said, “but it’s all about team and equipment. You can’t carry these things.”

This weekend, truck and driver will be carrying each other.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 1 2010
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