Gus Schrader – Driver

By Chad Meyer

Gus Schrader, born in the mid-1890s in Newhall, IA, started racing in 1917. After serving in the first World War, began racing again and by the time of his untimely passing, he was once regarded as one of the best ever in the cockpit of a IMCA Big Car (sprint car).

In mid-1932, Schrader and his 200-horsepower Miller Special broke ranks from the American Automobile Association (AAA) circuit to race with IMCA. The next year, he found success, taking the IMCA point title away from Sig Haugdahl who captured the title the previous five years.

1934 marked the start of his legendary head-to-head battles at dirt tracks across the country with Emory Collins. During the mid-thirties, both drove Harry A. Miller-built cars, each costing nearly $15,000. Schrader went on to defend his title in 1934 and earned IMCA point championships in the subsequent three years also.

Collins took the IMCA title away from Schrader in 1938. A year later Schrader responded with vengeance, having one of his best years in ’39 and repeated in 1940.

In what was supposed to be his last race of his career, Schrader was tragically killed on October 22, 1941 when he tangled with Jimmy Wilburn at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds. Schrader had enough points heading into that final event to be posthumously crowned the 1941 IMCA champion, his ninth overall IMCA national championship.

When the IMCA Big Cars raced at the Kossuth County Fair in Algona, Schrader received top-billing. A photo from 1937 shows Schrader’s car surrounded by several youngsters, promoting the driver’s return to the Algona track. The caption read “Schrader and his specially built racing car will come to the Kossuth fair races Friday to gain points towards another national championship. He is being pushed hard by rivals and is expected to drive at reckless speed to win events here.”

The Kossuth County Advance on July 29, 1941 reported that “Gus Schrader Will Race At Kossuth Fair.” The story went on to say “Gus Schrader, dirt track champion racer of the world, will come to Algona for the fair’s auto racing day and will take part in the races.” It went on to say that “Schrader will bring his $15,000 Offenhauser car for the races here, marking one of its first appearances in this part of the country. Hence, a new track record may be set for the Kossuth half-mile track is said to be one of the fastest in the United States.”

It is believed that Schrader went on to do just that. A column in the Algona paper in 1951 stated that the track record at Algona was slightly over 30 seconds in 1934, a record that stood until Schrader erased a few second off the mark. By 1951 Jimmy Campbell and Bob Slater each moved the mark down to 24.12 seconds, an average of about 75 miles per hour.

Schrader has been inducted into the Des Moines Register Sports Hall of Fame and the IMCA Hall of Fame in 1971. He was an inaugural member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1990 and an inaugural inductee into the Iowa Racing Hall of Fame in 2018.