By TJ Buffenbarger
For just about as long as I can remember I have been going to races in Ohio every summer. During this time there is are always things that stay the same: Eldora’s food is great, Ohio Speedweek is hotter than hell for at least half the week, goggles are required gear, and Butch Schroeder is winning in some kind of race car. I jokingly named him, “The Ohio Giant Killer” after a win at Attica in 1997 because of his height (Hey, us shorter guys have to stick together!).
Butch first caught my eye when he was dominating in the Street Stock division throughout Ohio. Schroeder was winning left and right. I’m not a fan of fenders by any means, but when a driver can dominate in that manner I have to stop and at least check things out. It wasn’t long after that we saw Butch in an Econo Sprint where he continued to win races. Then Lealand Gottchalk called and needed a driver.
The Gottchalk/Schroeder team is one that just seemed to get better every year. The beginnings were humble as my most vivid memory of the first few years is when their car was hit in the pits at Eldora after Michigan driver Bill Krupp hit the wall and just happened to shoot through the pit entrance in turn four. Not exactly the way one probably wants to be remembered by yours truly. The past two seasons Butch Schroeder has gotten my attention. They were not just fast at Attica, but ran well at KC, Eldora, Limaland, New 96 Speedway, and anywhere else the team ventured to. In 1997 Schroeder won the prestigious Coors Nationals at Attica Raceway Park against the All Star Circuit of Champions. The popular win just about brought down the house at the 1/3 mile oval that is considered Butch’s home race track.
1998 started out slow, but by the end of the year Schroeder and the Gottchalk Racing were one of the fastest teams in the midwest, and maybe the country. The Kistler engines were running great, and Butch’s driving was at the highest level of his career. A weekend sweep of Attica Raceway Park and New 96 Speedway in September really showed Schroeder’s skills as he lapped most of the field at Attica and held of a charging Steve Suever and Brett Mann after breaking the right rear shock halfway through the race. In the post race victory lane interview at New 96 Schroeder got the largest crowd of the season at the Lake Odessa oval going by saying how much he loved the race track and all the people that came out to see him race that night. The season ended with a great qualifying effort at Eldora in October before a blown engine put the team out for the rest of the afternoon.
With all of these wins and championships, the racing end of things is not Butch Schroeder’s best quality. I had a chance to really sit down and meet him for the first time this season via his sister, who follows her brother when he’s at New 96 via the Slideways Page live scoreboard. He’s one of the most pleasant drivers I have ever met, and always made time to make sure I got the information I needed from him. Fans also take to Butch well as it is common to go to places in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and other states and see people wearing Butch Schroeder tee-shirts. We really don’t know each other except in passing. I’m not really even sure if the Butch would recognize me if I saw him on the street.
Now with the 1999 season around the corner, Schroeder is in a situation he has never had to face in his racing career. Schroeder is hunting for a new ride or someone who wants to buy a top notch racing team. I was totally shocked when I answered the phone at work and it was Butch. He explained his plight to me and asked if I could post a little note on the website. Quite often we try to help people in this situation, but because of the way Butch had been with interviews and such in the past maybe I tried a little harder to get the word out.
This also made me wish for one more thing: That I was out of school and had some extra money laying around so I could buy a race team and hire the Ohio Giant Killer to drive my racecar.