In the Pits- KSR
Pilot and plane make hectic schedule work
Like virtually every other driver on the Nextel Cup circuit, Ken Schrader flies to races and other events in his own plane, piloted by his own pilot. For the past 18 years, the job of pilot has belonged to Earl Blanton.
Over the Road and Pro Trucker magazines interviewed Blanton earlier this year. Following are some ex-cerpts from the interview. The second part will appear in the August issue of Pro Trucker magazine:
So how did you land this pilot gig with Ken Schrader?
Eighteen years ago Kenny bought a small, single-engine plane with intentions of learning to fly. I knew Harry Gant and his pilot, and they hooked me up with Kenny with intentions of me teaching him to fly. As it turns out, Kenny is such a busy man that he really didn’t have time to learn, so he asked me if I’d become his pilot.
Do you take him to all his events?
Just about all of the Nextel Cup races, all of the dirt-track stuff, and, of course, things like his personal appearances.
How many days a year are you on the road, or should I say, in the air?
That’s hard to say. It’s a lot. Of course, if the race is close to home like Charlotte, Kenny drives. I would guess that we’re away from home about 200 days a year.
What kind of aircraft do you fly?
Ken Schrader Racing owns two planes—a King Air 200 and a King Air 100.
How long does it take you to get airborne from the time you leave the shop?
It varies, but 15 minutes is a good number. There are a lot of variables to consider, depending on the weather, traffic in the airspace and things like that.
How many of the Nextel Cup drivers have planes?
I’d guess that most, if not all, of them have their own planes or have access to a private plane. There’s no way they can do the things they do without an airplane.
Are you into motorsports racing?
I am, somewhat. We typically fly in on a Thursday evening because you have to be there early Friday morning in time for inspection. I’ll go to the track and hang out that night, but I don’t go to the track and watch the race on Sunday be-cause I have to be at the airport. They could blow an engine or whatever, and I have to have everything ready to fly out within 15 minutes. The only races I see are on TV.