Prior to this past weekend, the last time anybody had seen Jeff Choquette at the race track was during the 2014 Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Florida. After that race Choquette disappeared from the Super Late Model scene. But on Memorial Day Weekend the popular 29-year-old racer reappeared in the Sunshine State, and he did so in a big way.
Choquette showed up at Five Flags Speedway (FL), the site of his last race, and finished second on Friday night in the Southern Super Series 125 with the Jett Motorsports team. Then he and the team drove south to New Smyrna Speedway (FL) on Saturday night where they won the first event in the 2016 Bright House Challenge Series.
“Having a good crew around you, a great car, having all the parts and pieces in order to get back really makes it a lot easier to come back,” Choquette told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “A lot of people sometimes who take time off don’t get in the greatest equipment when they get back in or maybe the crew is lacking a little bit. Those guys, every single one of them, they really busted their butt. We qualified and raced Friday, got no sleep, turned around and woke up Saturday morning and drove down to New Smyrna and were able to get us a win on Saturday night.”
The splash he made turned heads throughout the Short Track Racing world and had many people asking, “Where has he been?”
Choquette’s time off came as a result of wanting to make sure the family construction business was in a good place. His time away came to an end when he got a call from Pat Jett who asked Choquette if he wanted to race at Pensacola for them. Then Choquette offered to race New Smyrna for them the next night.
But the West Palm Beach, Florida driver didn’t expect the weekend to go as well as it did after over a year away from the track. He was actually nervous when he showed up in Pensacola for practice on Thursday.
“You always have the butterflies and the doubts and everything,” said Choquette. “Everyone always says it’s like riding a bike, but until you put yourself in that bike riding situation you don’t ever know. It’s easy for people to get in race cars and go fast. Anybody can practice. What really separates everybody is the race. That’s what I was really the most nervous about. As far as getting up to speed, I wasn’t very nervous about that. It was getting out there and getting really close to somebody and maybe not being 100-percent comfortable with that.”
California driver Derek Thorn and Wisconsin native Travis Sauter have recently been behind the wheel of the No. 9 Jett Motorsports Late Models. While fans can still expect to see Thorn make occasional trips to the East Coast, Sauter and the Jett team recently made a mutual decision to part ways.
That decision allowed Choquette to fill the void in the driver’s seat for a handful of races this season, including some big races near the end of the year.
“The rest of the Crate races at Pensacola will be with Jeff, and the rest of the Blizzard Series races at Pensacola too,” said team owner Kurt Jett. “We’re also going to run the Snowball Derby and probably the Governor’s Cup with Jeff.”
After the weekend Choquette and the Jett Motorsports team just had, Choquette is ready for those big races to be right now.
“Those are the big races,” he said. “That’s the dream and the end result is to go there and be able to run with those guys. I know the Jett team, all the crew members are excited and ready to go. Just to be able to drive some of the best equipment on the race track makes it that much more exciting.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo