Originally created 04/14/02

Outspoken Scheckter among Indy rookies



INDIANAPOLIS -- Tomas Scheckter is fast, aggressive and outspoken. Sort of like his boss, Eddie Cheever.

"He pushes the team every day," said Cheever, a former Indianapolis 500 winner. "I can't do anything with him. We play pool, we get in an argument. We play squash, we get in an argument. We play pingpong, we get in an argument."

Scheckter, the son of 1979 Formula One champion Jody Scheckter, drives for Cheever's Indy Racing League team. He was one of six drivers who tested at the Speedway on Saturday during the annual rookie orientation program.

His biggest confrontation with Cheever came after he tried to pass his boss during a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway last month. They bumped wheels, and Cheever went into the wall.

He wasn't happy. And he let Scheckter know it.

"He has the attitude of what you'd expect of a 21-year-old who, you know, thinks he should be the fastest in every session. It was a difficult relationship in the beginning," Cheever said.

Scheckter, runner-up in the British Formula 3 series in 2000 and runner-up in the Formula Nissan championship last year, passed his IRL rookie test in January and is 16th in the standings after three races this season.

He took his first laps at Indianapolis last week during private testing. He practiced briefly Friday before rain closed the track. He was back again Saturday to begin the mandatory Indy rookie test, a series of 10-lap runs starting at 200 mph and increasing in 5 mph increments.

Scheckter, Rick Treadway, Anthony Lazzaro and George Mack were the first of the rookies to finish all four speed phases of the test on Saturday.

"It's unbelievable just to be here, an unbelievable experience. So much history, so many great champions have left here, just to be on the circuit is great," Scheckter said.

He said that since Homestead his relationship with Cheever has been "very constructive."

"I'd say I'm a pretty aggressive driver," Scheckter said. "But you have to learn how to train your driving style and he's helped me with that."

And there's still a lot to learn, said Scheckter, who began racing in his native South Africa as a teenager over his father's objection.

"He was very much against it," the younger Scheckter said. "Obviously, he stopped racing by the time I was born, and he watched my first race only when I was 16. I've always wanted to race, but not because of him."