Tomas Scheckter turns 36 today and this is the point where we note the South African driver was often the price of admission on his own for his IndyCar career, which lasted from 2002 through 2011.
Scheckter debuted with Eddie Cheever’s team in 2002 and quickly rankled the establishment with his speed, aggression, and take-no-prisoners mentality. He probably should have won that year’s Indianapolis 500 but crashed out in Turn 4.
He then moved to Chip Ganassi Racing for 2003 after Cheever let him go in 2002, after scoring his first win at Michigan. A pair of somewhat fruitless seasons followed, first with Ganassi and then in 2004 with Panther Racing, before Scheckter returned to victory lane at Texas in 2005 – delivering both his and Panther’s final victory in the series.
Two more full-time campaigns with Vision Racing in 2006 and 2007 followed before Scheckter bounced around part-time for the next four years, primarily on ovals, and giving it his all with his high-line style every time he got in the car. If you remember Mona-Vie or REDLINE on an IndyCar, then you remember Scheckter was the one driving it.
You’re probably wondering then, why is this historical piece on Scheckter’s career, which hadn’t really restarted since 2011, being posted today, on Sept. 21, 2016?
It’s because Scheckter – who popularized the word “jawn” the last several years, essentially a four-letter word describing anything and everything without actually meaning something – has officially called time on his racing career.
When a fan asked today whether we’d ever see Scheckter back in a car, his answer was a definitive “no.”
Conor Daly, who never had the opportunity to race against Scheckter in IndyCar but watched him growing up, simply responded, “hero.”
Scheckter was certainly a character in his time in IndyCar and there really hasn’t been someone of his ilk since, especially someone who made restarts that jaw-dropping.
Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay are probably the gold standard for starts/restarts among the current crop of competitors but watching a “T-Scheck” start or restart in his heyday was something to behold.
Anyway, the IndyCar numbers: 118 starts, two wins, 18 top-fives, 44 top-10s and an unlimited amount of “jawn.”
We didn’t think a comeback was really on the cards for the son of 1979 World Champion Jody, but this news confirms it.
Ride that high line, “T-Scheck.” Ride high.