After five long, grueling, year-long laps as one of Jalopnik’s most beloved and prolific staff writers, we must announce that Stef Schrader—our best Porsche fan and chief Puffalump enthusiast—is taking the checkered flag and leaving us.
In those five years she was wet and miserable at Lemons and loved it. She crusaded for teal. She got the scoop on Nissan’s bizarre front-wheel-drive race car way before anyone else even came close. She bravely helped advance the conversation around head injuries in racing with her own story.
But more than that, Stef truly embodied what it means to be Jalopnik—smart, curious, fearless, irreverent, offbeat, and sharp as a tack.
As you may have read, the comical ineptitude of our new corporate overlords has forced cuts across our company, but our editorial union was able to negotiate voluntary buyouts for staffers instead of layoffs. You can read more about Stef’s decision to take a buyout here, but the great news for us is she isn’t going far—she’ll be sticking on as a freelancer, doing stories and dispatches from around the world.
Please join us in wishing her the best. This shoey’s for you, Stef.
We never deserved Stef Schrader. You didn’t either.
A lot of people who come into the “profession” of automotive writing are career grifters, long-con swindlers in it for the swag and the hotels and the airline miles. They can’t write, they can’t drive, and they don’t put their asses on the line for the thrill of speed and noise and a good story at the end of it.
Stef isn’t like that. She’s the real deal, one of the realest I’ve ever met. She lives the Jalop life every minute she’s awake, whether it’s doing Lemons in her Porsche 944, treating Harris Hill Road as her second home, defending her humble Mitsubishi Lancer or geeking out at any competitive event involving fast cars. She does this because this is who she is, and because she wants to share how awesome it is with all of you.
And she’s an unapologetic truth-teller, the kind of person built for journalism because she hates the bullshit and the artifice that wants to pervade and pervert everything you love. Her scorn for liars, frauds, Instagram influencers and marketing-speak eclipses my own at times, and I always respected and trusted her so much for that.
Through everything that happened with our former and current parent company, Stef’s first concern was always about Jalopnik’s editorial freedom—our ability to stay away from the brands and the sponsored crap, because she knew that was the best way to share her love of speed with you all. We were always well-served by her unimpeachable moral compass. (To my knowledge she is the only person associated with Baylor University who has one.)
I would say I am heartbroken to lose her work on Jalopnik, but the good news is we’re not really losing her. She’s sticking around as a freelancer, probably sending us dispatches from the Nürburgring, and given this country’s current trajectory I can’t imagine she’ll want to come back. It’s for the best. The ‘Ring deserves her. We don’t, and neither does this garbage industry where talented people’s careers depend on the whims of private equity vampires.
Stef, I will miss your fart jokes, your irrepressible enthusiasm, your tireless work ethic, your consistently baffling expense report issues, your good heart, and most of all, your commitment to all that is great about Jalopnik.
Stef, I met you the first time I set foot in the new Gawker office the summer of 2016. It was for our 24 Hour LeManStravaganza and you had just written a comprehensive guide to the race (it was a great help for someone like me to act like I knew what was happening in front of the scary people who were to be my new coworkers the following Tuesday). You had Gulf livery-painted toenails to match. It was dope.
I wish you the best of luck wherever you go, because you will surely be entirely too good for them.
Fuck Miatas, indeed, and also—what the fuck is a “parsh?”
Stef Schrader accomplished something few bloggers, writers, TV hosts or Twitter personalities have been able to do for me: make me give a shit about motorsports.
Her enthusiasm for all things racing is extreme and infectious, which are probably also words you could use to describe her Jalop-ass race car Porsche, which just makes my point. I think our Editor-in-Chief said it best when he described Stef as embodying the spirit of Jalopnik. Absolutely she does. She’s wild and unique and ravenously excited about driving.
I’m glad to have been able to work with her and read her stuff, and I’m excited to see what she gets up to next.
While I’ll miss Stef on Jalop, I’m glad the Puffalump forums will be getting their moderator back full time. Lord knows we need her there more than ever.
Sent from my iPhone
Look, I’m not going to pretend like I ever understood the whole Puffalump thing—squishy animal-pillows made from recycled parachute pants? They’re not Beanie Babies? Does anyone other than Stef and lightning-struck invalids collect those things?
Really, it doesn’t matter. I have plenty of my own ridiculous fetishes and collections that make zero sense to an outside observer, and I can’t back it up nearly as well as Stef can. Because Stef can collect any misshapen lump of industrial polyfil she wants, because Stef is the Real Deal.
We all talk about how much we love to race, all the weird, improbably cars we’d love to hoon on the track, but Stef actually goes out and does it. Sure, I’d love a VW 411! But would I immediately take one I was given, missing half its engine cooling tin, and flog it on a track like a badass?
Probably not. But Stef did.
It’s going to be tricky without Stef. Who am I going to point to when those mean bully autojournos on press trips slap the tray of shrimp out of my hands and tell me that Jalopnik is all show and no go? I always relied on Stef for this, our intrepid, go-getter who raced herself into a concussion, whose tank of fucks to give always had that needle pinned on E. I could always point to Stef, our Real Deal, and those big mean autojournos would have to slink off, defeated, feet sliding on all those scattered shrimp.
If Stef’s gone, that means we’ll all have to pick up her slack. That’ll probably mean one of us idiots will end up dead.
I bet it’ll be David.
I like a healthy dose of madness. What I don’t like is missing the N24. Yet there I was this year, four days past race weekend, taking a walk in the rain at 6AM in the village, then watching the maintance team getting close to the final stages of turning the Nordschleife back into its standard tourists paradise mode. At breakfast, when I got introduced to the new faces, it came up that I used to work for Jalopnik. So one of the PR guys goes… “Oh yeah? There was a girl from Jalopnik here for the 24 Hours. She was really into racing! And don’t get me wrong, she really knew her stuff …you know, hitting the engineers and drivers with one question after the other. She also stayed up to follow the action as closesly as possible, taking regular trips to the pits. But seriously, what’s her deal with those stuffed rabbits? I mean…you’ve seen her photos, right?”
Poor fool. It was obvious to me that he wasn’t even aware of the superiority of lightweight transaxle Porsche sportwagens.
Stef is the only person to out-fart me.
I guess you could say I “discovered” Stef, roughly in the same way someone had be the first person to look up at the sun, all radiant and unavoidable, and say “Hey, that’s a thing. I found that.” As was the case with most of the people who ended up Jalopnik during my tenure, Stef really found me. The thing that makes Jalopnik successful, more than anything, is that it attracts the best people. And also Ballaban.
Specifically, I found Stef when she dusted my ass in a Mitsubishi Lancer around Harris Hill. I was driving a Dodge Dart, which stuck around too long and no one wanted, so sort of the opposite of Stef.
When you go to a race track there are two kinds of media: People there to drink and carouse on someone else’s dime without ever watching the race and people there to do the work. Stef was always there to do the work.
If you’re thinking: “Matt, do you have anything bad to say about Stef?” I’m sorry to say I don’t. Stef is great.
Now those Puffalumps. That’s a different story. Those Puffalumps are assholes. I never wanted to say this around Stef, but the second she leaves the room they turn into a buncha shit-talking jerks. One of them, the pink one, somehow got ahold of my email and started sending me Grover Norquist’s blog posts. The purple one had some very unfortunate things to say about people of Swedish descent. And the blue one? Obsessed with Felix Salmon.
I don’t think I have it in me to commit cold-blooded murder, but the Puffalumps don’t have blood. Someone do the world a favor and drop those little shits into a wood chipper.
While at Cadillac, I was always happy to see Stef talking to Jordan or Ricky, Johnny, Michael or Andy or anyone else on the Cadillac Racing teams, because I knew she would be asking the questions I would want to know myself. She writes about racing the way I want to read about racing. In a serious business where serious people race serious machines while serious journalists report the seriousness in all seriousness, she didn’t take herself too seriously: a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed her coverage of almost everything, especially series, teams and drivers I knew nothing about. When I clicked on her stories, I knew I’d be fed not only the corn-flake facts but also the chocolate-frosted-sugar-bombs of personality, humor and conflict! Stef shared the “so whats” and the “now whats” largely left out of other previews and recaps. She was my dealer, and now she’s leaving. Where am I going to get the good stuff?
I’m really envious of everyone’s stories about racing with Stef. Being able to drive with her would be an amazing experience. Unfortunately, while we’ve worked together this past year we’ve been on opposite sides of the country, so I haven’t had much facetime with her.
But I did get the unique pleasure of talking with her over Slack every day. Even more importantly, I got to read Stef, pure and unfiltered. And what I’ve learned from obsessively reading Stef is that she is deadly serious in her enthusiasm. When you read Stef, her obsessions become your obsessions. Her mad-cap, undiluted love for everything from Porsches to Puffalumps is contagious. Additionally, she always had excellent grammar and punctuation, which was much appreciated.
In what can be a very gray world, she slaps everything she is passionate about with a big LOOK AT THIS NEAT THING flashing neon sign. Stef’s the real thing, a true Jalop. No buyout could ever change that. And no matter where her name shows up, I’ll be obsessively reading Stef for a long time to come.
I’m glad she won’t really be leaving but instead of joining me in the club of weird freelancers who enjoy corny jokes.
Stef once pitched me a video idea about going on a LeMons rally through Death Valley in a Baja Bug with Dusty Ventures. So, I shipped her a camera and a GoPro inside of a Pelican case and never heard from her again.
Stef, wherever you are, I hope you’re surrounded by chili with beans in it and avocado toast. You’ll be missed!
I learned a lot about Stef when I met her for the first time at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 back in 2016. Among my discoveries was the fact that Stef cannot shotgun a beer to save her life.
Back in May of 2016, I found myself with her and photographer Kurt walking through campgrounds filled with drunkards just outside of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, filming the whole shitshow in an effort to meet our dumb Facebook live video quotas. When some campers asked if we wanted to shotgun beers, my coward-ass took a giant step back, but Stef—who had apparently never shotgunned a beer—accepted the challenge.
The result was not pretty, with Stef popping the tab and drinking from it, while beer poured all over the ground from the key-hole in the side of the can. It was pathetic, really, but that didn’t matter. Stefwas there to party, and to ingrain herself not into just the race itself, but into the culture surrounding it.
With every person Stef spoke with, it became clearer and clearer to me that I—a fraud who knew very little about IndyCar racing—was hanging out with someone in her natural habitat. Places like this raceway—this mecca for car racing—are where Stef truly belongs, and these fans—from the group of ridiculously friendly Kiwis there to support Scott Dixon, to the older guy attending his 40th Indy 500, and even to the youths shoving enormous quantities of cheap beer into themselves via cans with holes punctured into their sides—are her kinds of people.
Stef lives and breathes motorsports, and she knows her shit. Which is why it’s been such a blessing having her around to field my endless idiotic racing-related questions. I know we’ll all miss her, but she’ll kick ass wherever she goes. Unless wherever that is requires shotgunning beers, in which case she might be doomed.
Ok, here goes. Stef and I went to Pikes Peak a few weeks ago. It was exciting to see her on the trip, because we hadn’t hung out in a while. Before I went, I had casually mentioned the existence of Rocky Mountain Oysters, which she had tried at Lucy’s in Austin (!) but not in, well, the actual Rockies.
Well, she spent the entire time talking about balls. Gotta get them balls. Balls balls balls balls balls. Big ol’ bull balls. Deep-fried balls. It was 3 in the morning when VW shuffled us bleak and bleary-eyed, breakfast-sandwich-huffing, cranky, undercaffinated journalists onto buses towards Devil’s Playground, where the temperature was 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and Stef maintained her buoyant mood through her newly-adopted mantra of “balls.”
Volkswagen broke the record that weekend, which was neat. It was our last day in Colorado Springs, and just before our victory dinner hosted by the jubilant Germans, Stef snuck off to a joint called PJ’s Stagecoach. She returned with a styrofoam container. Inside were balls.
(Here is where I direct your attention to the video, attached.)
Of course I had to try them. They had been pounded flat and deep-fried, an ignomious fate for the poor bull. And boy were they not good—bland, unsalted, and tasteless, with the flaccid texture of a sponge. The breading was limp, as one would imagine from sitting in the perforated, cooled front leather seat of the all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium in Reflex Silver Metallic. Deep-frying anything should taste good: USDA Grade B chicken, hats, bull testicles. But not here. A betrayal worse than death.
We still finished the box.
Hoping that Stef maintains her ceaseless energy, Puffalump collection, and enthusiasm for strange/euphemistically names foods anywhere she goes.
Has anybody mentioned balls yet? I feel like no Stef tribute can be complete without mention of balls.
For me, I think of the 2016 Indy 500.
Stef and I shared an Airbnb that week. She knew that I was after a bucket list shot, and that the IMS media team are a bunch of idiots who set up credentials like a members’ club, and I hadn’t earned a seat at the bar.
That whole week, I was working a million angles, trying to get to snap the milk shot in victory lane, and talked my way in. It was a long week, filled with a ton of nos from media delegates from the track and series, and all I wanted to do was get that shot published once I pulled it off.
The WiFi was shit at IMS, and tethering my phone wasn’t an option because 350,000 people were packed into this place, murdering the signal. I rushed to get the shot edited, and had to throw it on an external drive, run up to the media center floor where Stef was (I was stuck in this auxiliary room for photographers and writers who hadn’t earned IMS’ respect yet), and get that shot to her.
Roselli, David, and Torch were out in the Firestone tent, and Stef and I were wrapping up the work on our end. Once we got it on the site for the winning story, she knew what it meant to me to check that shot off the list. She gave me this cool and clear look, and said something to the effect of “Go sit somewhere, take a break, and enjoy the moment. You got the shot.”
Stef and I have worked alongside each other at tracks all over the place for the past four years, and will continue to do so throughout our freelance contributions to Jalopnik. I’m grateful to have had my shots paired with her words for so long.
Stef! We didn’t know what a heffalump was until we met you and to be honest we still don’t know. Sorry to see you leave but glad we’ll get to work together a little longer for Build of the Week!
WAIT STEF DIED?
I get A LOT of odd questions in my line of work — you know, normal things that happen to people, like “Oh hey I melted a pound of butter into my car seat, a little help here?” (that one happened to three separate people, actually) — but it’s exceedingly rare for me to get a question so esoteric that no one has ever asked something even remotely similar before.
But I can say with some measure of confidence that Stef asking how to get the smell of pinto beans with jalapeño out of her shoe was the first and last time I’ll ever contemplate what’s to be done to restore footwear after one has eaten a snack out of it. I’d add something here about how the question is one of a kind, just like Stef, but Stef would probably belt me in the face with a can of pinto beans with jalapeño for saying something so treacly, and that’s exactly why we love her.
I reviewed all of my direct messages with Stef before writing this, and, frankly, it was mortifying, since I am an asshole; Stef is far more gracious an interlocutor than anyone deserves. Godspeed, Schrader.
Stef clearly has an innate curiosity about so goddamn much in this world, and it was totally evident in her reporting—be it racing related, or some lawsuit she was digging into. I always looked forward to reading her features, because I knew they were going to be an enjoyable time. Losing someone like that in a newsroom downright sucks. Her presence is going to be sorely missed.
Stef says everything I’m thinking. She’s the only person I know who can make a fart joke or a balls comment fitting for any given situation, and do some incredible reporting at the same time. She’s pretty much the person all of us want to be but aren’t cool enough to pull off.
She’s also one of the hardest workers I know, whether she’s grinding out deep reports on legal disputes, staying up all night to report about race cars on the other side of the world or writing cool stuff about different project cars people are working on.
Thanks for being the coolest, Stef, and always being around to talk race cars—with the occasional fart joke in between, of course.
Stef, more than anybody else in this business, knew what was good and what was bullshit, and called out both without any hesitation.
But maybe Stef’s strongest characteristic is as a Bad Idea Machine. Trust no one more than Stef to think up the worst possible plan and execute.
Should you move apartments using only a Mitsubishi Lancer? Probably not. But Stef did and pulled it off.
Should you take in a non-functioning Volkswagen 411 race car and tow it across the country with a borrowed manufacturer’s SUV? That’s a 100 percent no from any normal, weak-willed American, to whom “air-cooled” strikes fear into their hearts. Stef is not weak-willed.
I look forward to her next upcoming quest, presumably convincing someone to let Donald Trump crash a NASCAR Cup car. We will all write to you in jail, Stef.