Ken Schrader has announced he will again pay a visit to the 'Desert Jewel' to compete in both events at the 2001 NAPA Auto Parts NASCAR Winter Heat presented by Bosch event.

Schrader, who's been winning February races at PIR since 1981, will race his own Federated-sponsored cars, a NASCAR Winston West Pontiac and a NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series Chevy, in an attempt to make a record-breaking seventh visit to victory lane at Phoenix International Raceway. The Fenton, Missouri, driver started his win streak twenty years ago with a USAC Midget Series win, and took Midget wins again in 1982 and 1984, before winning in the USAC Silver Bullet series in 1989 and 1990. His last victory at PIR was in 1998, when he won the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series race.

"That old Featherlite car, the one I won with in '98, is gone now," Schrader reminisced, "It was really my favourite, my little baby. We'd already started on a new car that we probably could've had ready for the November race, but I wanted to make it really, really nice, so we ran the old one. And then I tore it up, right here, at PIR, last November. I guess it was a good thing I wasn't running the new one."

Schrader, who drives the #36 M&M's NASCAR Winston Cup Pontiac, has been very busy in the off-season getting ready for the 2001 season.

"We're pretty optimistic about this year," he said, "Last year we kinda got caught off guard. We expected to run better than we did, but we didn't run good at all. We only finished 18th in points, my worst finish ever. But we're moving into a new facility, with a new shop that will house Johnny Benson's team and ours. We're building six new cars, we're back with Hendrick engines, so we 're pretty excited."

Despite a full pre-season schedule filled with testing, PR appearances, and the daily chores necessary to be ready for Daytona, Schrader still makes sure he's available for racing in Phoenix every February.

"I like this place, I like the city, the people, and I really enjoy the racetrack," he said, "It's high speed, but you run it kinda like a short track. Maybe I like it because it's the first place I ever towed a race car to. I remember I'd been running all the bullrings in the Midwest and we came to Phoenix and I thought that was the neatest thing in the world, to tow across the country so we could race in the winter."

Perhaps that's also why Ken Schrader is tied with Al Unser Sr as the driver with the most wins at Phoenix International Raceway. Any driver who can get to victory lane six times by taming the famous one-mile dogleg oval has to like the track a lot - and that elusive seventh (or eighth!) win may be just a few weeks away as Schrader gears up for his annual February oval-season opener at PIR.

The NAPA Auto Parts NASCAR Winter Heat presented by Bosch will be held Feb 3-4 at Phoenix International Raceway. The event will feature a 100-lap NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series race plus a 150-mile NASCAR Winston West race. The scheduled 50-lap Mechanix Wear Speed Truck Challenge has been cancelled, however.