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Schrader ready for return

6/6/2014

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net

Kenny Schrader is anxious to return to RPM Speedway in Hays.

Not because he's had ample amounts of success. Instead, it's because the NASCAR racing legend had the opposite --  according to his standards anyway.

"Hopefully we can run better than we have in the past," he said.

As part of the 80th anniversary celebration of S&W Supply, Schrader will pilot his IMCA modified during Saturday's 7 p.m. races in Hays. Hot laps start at 6 p.m., and admission is $10 for general admission seating.

On Sunday morning, he'll offer a few ride-alongs and driving sessions for special customers of S&W.

"We've got to stick around before, but we've still had to shove off later that night," Schrader said about his past two experiences in Hays.

As part of Mod Mania night in 2012, Schrader finished eighth and led six laps at the beginning of the feature. When he was at the track for the first time in 2009, he was caught up in early trouble and failed to finish the feature.

"I'm very much (excited)," he said about returning to Hays. "Especially when you go to a track where you've struggled at a few times, because it gives you another chance."

To say Schrader's past races in Hays have been well-received is an understatement. In 2009, he brought one of the largest crowds to RPM Speedway.

In 2012, along with Clint Bowyer driving as well, several thousands fans filled the stands and pits.

"He's a guy that loves to do what he can for smaller tracks in the area," said Don Bickle Jr., who along with brother Tim are co-owners of S&W. "He bleeds dirt tracks through and through."

Schrader will compete in Nebraska on Friday night, then make the trek to Hays. He'll also be in northwest Kansas in July, when he competes at Thomas County Speedway in Colby.

Schrader has been associated with Federated Auto Parts for several years, and S&W Supply is a partner of Federated.

"He's just a good friend," Don Bickle Jr. said. "I think Kyle Petty said it best when he said, 'Who could you have as a better spokesman than Ken Schrader?' "

"He's great with the customers," said Ryan Bickle, Don's son and vice president of sales for S&W. "He stays and makes sure everyone gets an autograph. He's just a good guy. He can hold a conversation with anybody."

Along with the featured IMCA modifieds, RPM also will have the stock cars, Northern sport mods, hobby stocks and sport compacts competing Saturday.

But all eyes will be on the veteran driver in the Federated-sponsored modified -- both on the track and off it.

"He's equally comfortable talking to the CEO of a major manufacturer as he is talking to a 10-year-old kid that's a race fan,"  Don Bickle Jr. said. "When you're talking to him, he's talking to you. ... He just has that ability to make you feel that when he's talking to you that you're the most important person at that time."