Monday, February 27, 2012

The Return of Tomas Scheckter?

Does Tomas Scheckter get under your skin? I'll admit, he has got under mine on several occasions, but that's Tomas. He says things that irritate people, or rubs them the wrong way, then he goes out on the track and makes your jaw drop. The journeyman IndyCar driver is well-known for his salvos on social media such as Twitter, but he's also known for taking the high line at Indy and making any race he's in a pretty wild show. Love him or hate him, TScheck has a knack for mixing things up. He's not a "white hat" or a "black hat", he's sort of a muddled gray, and that's what keeps it interesting, along with pulling off passes on the outside you've almost forgotten can be done.

As most fans know, in the last few years, Tomas has been a part-timer and super-sub in the series. If you saw his run at Indy last year (an 8th-place finish that was immense fun to watch in person), you know he's always going to be a hot commodity at the season's biggest race. But in an interview with SpeedTV this past November, it sounded as if the part-time role had grown tiresome.

“I’m 31 years old and I’ve got to make a decision in the next two months,” he said. “I’m not going to do six races anymore. I want to do this the proper way, with a testing program and full-time deal," he said in that interview.

Flash forward to last week, when Tomas' manager Ben Priest tweeted the following:

This is interesting, because this year's full-time field seems to be getting very close to something equaling finalization, and it's been pretty quiet in the rumor mill in regards to Scheckter. As we all know, of course, that doesn't always signify much, but something is definitely afoot that most of us simply didn't foresee.

Speculation has ranged from Tomas joining the the announcer team to joining a team such as Foyt, Sarah Fisher's crew, or Ed Carpenter Racing for a season from Indy onward. If we're honest with ourselves, it's mostly wild guesses out there at this point.

So if we're working within the bounds of speculation...

Reference this article from SpeedTV's Marshall Pruett on January 10th of this year, where Lotus' Olivier Picquenot mentions what has come to be known by silly season aficionados as the Mystery Lotus Team:

Picquenot kept the details to a minimum, but confirmed his bosses had inked a deal with a brand-new IndyCar entrant.

“Yeah, I know we signed one more team,” he said. “It has been signed between the UK and U.S., and it’s going to be a new team, not an existing team." (italics mine)

This team has long been speculated to be either vaporware or a mistaken reference to an existing team, but no current team, Lotus or otherwise, fits the description given. I've long-maintained this mystery team exists, but it's true there's been no details on it available, up until now.

So, could Tomas Scheckter, racing under the South African flag but with his family clearly established in England, be part of this Mystery Lotus Team?

Lotus has indicated it looks like they're full with their 5 current engine leases for the start of the season, so could the arrangement be for one of the teams they reference adding later in the season, perhaps full-time from Indy onward?

The only potentially related word from Tomas we see is this recent Tweet:

And, later, this short note, which seemed to go largely unnoticed:

Looking further into the timeline, the meeting was indeed in London.

So, could we be seeing a Scheckter effort as a UK-to-US Lotus connection? Possibly as part of a US rollout of Scheckter's Organic Energy, the drink launched by Tomas' brother Toby (whom appears, incidentally, to have met with Tomas and Mike Conway this weekend)?

We don't have our answers yet, but it's at least a working theory. There's no guarantee it's right, but you have to admit, it's not completely far-flung, either. Whatever's happening, it sounds like far more than just a Indy 500 one-off with Dreyer and Reinbold or KV Racing.

Whatever Tomas' news is, for me, the Series is a bit more unpredictable and crazy when he's the midst of it all, and I hope it's something big in regards to his participation. And would it really be silly season if we didn't have at least one more wild surprise in front of us? Either way, a bit of excitement and mystery is good for the soul, and that's what Tomas Scheckter and his big news just might provide.


  1. Zach,

    Good piece! Do we have any idea of how many and who purchased Dallara's? That would seem to be as big of question as engine at this point. If he can get a Lotus engine, do they have a car to put it in?

    Having an idea of who purchased Dallara's would give us an idea of who we might see at Indy, too.

    1. I don't have an updated list at the moment, Aaron. There's been some give-and-take with some of the teams, so I really have an incomplete picture of that. But yes, it might help illuminate things a bit more.

  2. Tomas is extremely talented and he would be a guy NBC Sports can follow for 36 hours. I hope he is in the series full-time. It's been awhile since that has happened. If he does well, his career goes on but if he does bad, it could be the end. I don't think he ever got a fair shake once Ganassi let go of him. Panther's last win was with Sheckter.

    1. Yes, his last full-time ride was '07. It doesn't seem like it's been that long, but it has. I do hope he gets one more crack at it.

  3. Tomas is great on Twitter, and so is Hugo! Must be something that runs in the family.

    He is always fun to watch at Indy. I remember on one of the restarts heading into one this one car gets waaayyy up in the marbles, swings around about four cars and somehow makes it stick. One of those "there are like five guys in the world with the stones to pull it off". I didn't even need the car to come by me a couple of seconds later to know it was Tomas. Only because TK was further up in the field. LOL

    1. I know exactly what you mean. With TK and Tomas on the track, we have two drivers that are simply a joy to watch on restarts.

  4. Schecter was veeerrrryy good at smashing cars.
    He had a chance to shine in F1, and he had a chance to shine in IndyCar. Put has-beens out to pasture, and usher in fresh blood, such as graduates of IndyCar's ladder program. I prefer to watch young guns such as Newgarden, Hinchcliffe, and Hildebrand rather than has-beens and those who can never win and never, or rarely, reach a podium.

    1. I think there's room for both, Brian. The 3 drivers you mentioned all have rides this season; if Scheckter puts together a program outside of that, I'm happy to see him get one more shot at it.

      Thanks for commenting!