The “jawn” is gone: Tomas Scheckter announces he’s done racing

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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.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)