For years, Jeff Choquette was among the top Super Late Model drivers in the country. He won in his home state of Florida with consistent dominance. When people knocked him for not traveling outside the Sunshine State, he joined with several tours and won. Then, when the economy took a downturn in recent years and the family’s construction company’s business went down with it, Choquette was almost an afterthought in Super Late Model racing. He moved back to Florida from Charlotte to try to help the family business first, putting the full-time racing life on the backburner.
Then along came Jeff and Liz Adrian of the Quad Cities area in Illinois. The family wanted to up their racing inovlement and start a Super Late Model team for the right driver. It just so happens the right driver was hundreds of miles away in South Florida.
Choquette teamed up with the Adrian Carriers team in 2010 and won every single Sunoco National Tour event they entered. Four of them, to be exact. Their first race of 2011 together was a second-place result in “THE RACE” at North Wilkesboro.
But the most impressive run of them all came Saturday night at the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway in the ASA Midwest Tour, as Choquette dominated the second half of the 150-lap feature to score his first win in his first-ever ASAMT start.
The win may look like just another win on paper for a kid who has won plenty in his career, but for Choquette, it was far more.
“This one ranks pretty high. This is the ASA Midwest Tour,” said Choquette. “This is one of the biggest things going. Iowa Speedway. Nationwide cars are here. It can’t get much better than this. This is pretty big.
“I drive for Gary and Liz Adrian of Adiran Carriers and Liz Girl Logistics out of the Moline (Illinois, two hours from Iowa Speedway) area, Quad Cities. This is where they’re from. They live for Iowa Speedway and I can see now. Just to be able to get a win for them here means a lot. It’s just cool.”
To get into victory lane, Choquette had to first get a handle on his car in the first half of the race after starting seventh. Then, after the 10-minute halfway break, Choquette just needed the right opportunity to pounce on Ross Kenseth, who had dominated the first half of the race.
“The very first laps of the race, I was all over the place,” said Choquette. “I was sliding, skating from the top to the bottom, bottom to top. It wasn’t very good. We settled down and thought maybe it was some Goodyear rubber that got laid down by the Nationwide cars. Once we got settled down, I ran those (first) 76 laps like it was a qualifying lap. I ran it for all I had. I picked some cars up and they were battling. Lapped cars that were in the way, which is not right, but we were able to capitalize on it.”
Choquette restarted second behind Kenseth after the halfway point and ran right in the ASAMT title contender’s tire tracks as they approached lapped traffic. Choquette maneuvered the traffic just a bit better than did Kenseth, eventually using the traffic to make the winning pass with roughly 40 laps to go.
“We were able to capitalize on a lapped car issue,” said Choquette. “A lapped car was kind of not in the right position, but that’s short track racing.”
“Tonight I thought we had a really good shot at (the win),” said Kenseth, who finished second. “At the break, I thought we were pretty good. The car traveled good. I was really good in (turns) one and two, but I was a little tight in three and four, but all in all, it just hauled the mail. We made a small adjustment, but we probably should’ve gone the other way. I guess you live and learn.”
With four wins in his four starts with the Adrian team in 2010, plus now one-for-one in ASA Midwest Tour competition, Choquette was quick to point out that while the team is strong, the competition of the ASA Midwest Tour and everywhere else the No. 29 team will go this year will be too tough to consider themselves invincible.
“There’s confidence, for sure. The people around the car, the people that prepare the car; 1,000-percent dedication. Invincibility, not at all. There’s a ton of competition out here. Any given time you could go from winning the race this week and go over to Cedar Rapids next week and maybe run top-10. The competition is so high, but there’s definitely confidence. You have no question in your mind when you’re out there running you could’ve done that because it’s already been done.”
Behind Choquette and Kenseth, Tim Schendel had to rebound from an early flat tire to finish third. Nathan Haseleu and Jeff Storm rounded out the top-five.
- Choquette will also compete in the ASA Midwest Tour race at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, IA this Saturday night. Choquette told Speed51.com that the team also plans to compete in this year’s Snowball Derby in December at Five Flags Speedway (FL).
- Third-place Tim Schendel also competed in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday at Iowa Speedway. Schendel finished 27th in Jimmy Means’ Nationwide ride.
- Iowa Speedway officials allowed all pit passes for ASA Midwest Tour teams to be valid for “hot pass” access for Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series garage area.
- In a speech much akin to a football coach’s pep talk before a big game, American Speed Association President Dennis Huth passionately thanked all of the teams and ASAMT officials during the drivers’ meeting and stressed the importance of putting on a good show for the crowd at such a showcase facility.
- Published reports indicate a crowd of more than 12,000 fans watched the ASAMT race, which was the final event on track Friday and went green an hour after the end of Nationwide Series practice.
- ASAMT point leader Andrew Morrissey never quite got the handle on his #39 car at Iowa and finished 14th. Morrissey’s point lead shrunk as a result of Ross Kenseth’s second-place finish to just 14 going into the Hawkeye Downs event.
- Twenty-nine cars took the green flag at Iowa. No cars made contact with the wall for the caution periods.
- Griffin McGrath went to a backup car after a mechanical failure in practice and finished 21st.
- Jeff Storm was perhaps the strongest in the first half of the race, leading several laps before Kenseth got by him with five laps to go before the halfway break. Storm hung in the top five all night before finishing fifth.
- Nathan Haseleu set fast time in qualifying by seven one-thousandths of a second over Storm. Haseleu started 10th after the post-qualifying invert of 10 and finished fourth.
- Chris Eggleston made his first major touring series start of the season since he took the $75,000 payday in “THE RACE” at North Wilkesboro. Eggleston struggled with his No. 22 all event long before finishing 23rd.