In the Pits- KSR
Baird, Schrader reunite for Daytona
Bill Baird, 57, came out of retirement to drive the No. 52 car for Ken Schrader Racing at the season-opening ARCA RE/ MAX Series event in Daytona. How Baird—who won the ’99 ARCA RE/MAX Series championship driving for KSR—and Schrader happened to reunite eight years after their storybook championship run together is a story in itself.
Baird first “retired” in 2002, only to climb back into a racecar in August of 2004 for what he thought was one last hurrah at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. A funny thing happened to Baird on his way back into retirement: He won the race. That convinced him to take another spin around the track three weeks later at DuQuoin, IL, where he finished second.
Baird, who obviously has a hard time saying goodbye, came out of retirement a second time in 2005 for ARCA RE/MAX events at Springfield, IL and DuQuoin, only to slip back into retirement once again.
“Walking away from racing was the toughest thing I ever did,” Baird says. “But I had no choice. My business was struggling, and I had to pay closer attention to what was going on with my business.”
The business is going so great now that Baird jumped at an opportunity to test at Daytona in December. “I had no intention of it turning into anything, but once I got in the car, I had a tough time climbing out,” Baird says.
Baird eventually did climb out of the car and sit down next to Schrader, who was also involved in the ARCA testing sessions at Daytona. The two old friends got to talking while waiting for the weather to clear, and before the conversation was over, Schrader says, “Let’s go racing.”
“We started talking, and the next thing I know, the talk’s getting a lot more serious,” Baird recalls. “As we got into the discussion, I told him that if I was coming to Daytona, I wasn’t just coming to race; I’d have to have a car I could win with. Schrader did some check-ing around and said he thinks he found me the car I need.”
The next stop: The Ken Schrader Racing shop in Concord, NC, where Baird was fitted for the Daytona car. “I can’t tell you how impressed I was when I was at the (Daytona) test in December,” Baird says. “I couldn’t believe the quality of equipment and race teams. You had over 70 drivers test, and there wasn’t one single spin on the track. I think that speaks volumes for the series, which is obviously getting more competitive every year.”
Baird made his ARCA RE/MAX Series de-but at Daytona in back in 1997, driving the No. 52 car for KSR. He qualified third and finished fourth.