Jeff Choquette Works To Break Out of Florida by Mike Twist
Super Late Model Ace Has Won Just About Everything in His Backyard, Now it's Time to Hit the Road
“I didn't really plan a whole lot in Florida this year,” said Choquette. “Last year, I ran in ASA South and we had a lot of fun traveling. Hopefully, this year we can do the same thing. We're not going to do ASA South again, but we do want to get out of Florida and run some of the bigger races.”
2008 might not have been the best season for Choquette to hit the road though. Just like millions of Americans, he's found plenty of pain at the pump as gas and diesel prices keep hitting new highs almost daily.
“It's tough. It costs so much in fuel. With diesel costing so much and only getting five miles per gallon going down the road in a hauler, it's tough. We're going to try though.”
Choquette is now moving to the Mooresville, North Carolina area and knows that to
move up in racing, that is likely where he needs to be racing and/or living.
“I've heard that [to make it in racing] you've got to try different tracks and get out of
Florida. I've heard a lot of different things. Getting on different tracks with a different
configurations does help.”
It really isn't surprising that Choquette can adapt to new tracks so well. After all, it
was only a few years ago when Choquette went from dirt to asphalt racing without
many growing pains at all.
While you can take the racer off dirt, it's hard to get the dirt away from the racer.
This year, Choquette is returning to his racing roots on a limited basis. He's not
doing it to move up or make a name for himself. He's just doing it to have fun.
“Dirt racing will always be more fun.,” said Choquette. “I just recently got a new dirt
car so on my off weekends, I've been dirt racing. It helps your skills on asphalt too.
On asphalt, the big thing is whether you can drive a loose racecar. If you can drive a
dirt car, you can definitely drive a loose racecar.”
The fact that many of today's big league racing stars like Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon,
Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer got started on dirt isn't just a coincidence.
“That's why you see a lot of those guys move up. I have definitely found that it helps
Another thing to help Choquette is the education that he has earned by racing against
some tough competitors on Florida short tracks.
“Florida is a really good place to learn, but you don't get a lot of media attention. You don't see your name in the newspaper very much. I think that it's a really good place to learn though because there are so many good people to race against and so many good races. If you can race with them down there, you can race with the guys anywhere.
In short track racing, the 2008 season typically starts within the state of Florida. The World Series of Stock Car Auto Racing at New Smyrna Speedway and Speedfest 2008 are two of the biggest Super Late Model races all season long and they take place before the snow has melted at most Northern speedways.
These races attract entrants from all across the country, as well as the best and brightest Florida short trackers. Sometimes, Northerners like Charlie Menard, Ted Christopher or Eddie Hoffman place well. Sometimes, it is one of the Florida boys like Tim Russell, Travis Kittleson or Jeff Scofield that is the king of the early season.
In 2008, nobody from anywhere on the map could do better than homestate racer Jeff Choquette. A Speedweeks victory got things rolling in January while the New Smyrna SLM championship followed one month later.
Since then though a funny thing has happened. Choquette hasn't just stayed in Florida. He's ventured to Hickory, Mobile and South Alabama Speedway. He's towed to Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola - which is still in the Sunshine State, but worlds away from Central Florida in many ways.
Choquette has turned into a traveling man and he's done pretty well at it - running up front anywhere he goes.
Choquette started out 2008 by winning Speedfest (top) and then drove his #70 to the SLM title at Florida Speedweeks. (Bottom)
“You've got extremely good racers down there. You've got Wayne Anderson, Dick Anderson - who just recently retired, BJ McLeod, Tim Russell…you've got a lot of good names. Those guys have done very well in their careers. “
An interesting side effect of having so many good racers in one place is that sometimes the competition can get too rough, which has led to a stereotype that maybe Florida racing is a little bit dirty. Well, Choquette said, maybe it is. But the reasons for that are noble ones.
“Sometimes that causes dirty racing. You've all got such good cars that you can't just drive by someone. You have to get alongside them and bump a little bit. Sometimes, you have to use the bumper.”
Off the track though, Choquette isn't hard to get along with at all.
“I'm easy going to get along with. A lot of people don't know that about me. Sometimes, when I don't go and talk to somebody it's because I'm scared to go and talk to them. I don't have an attitude. I'm just shy. “
Jeff Choquette describes himself as shy. This young fan might think otherwise though.