For the first time since the June doubleheader at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s tandem of James Jakes (pictured) and Graham Rahal both came away with Top 10 finishes in yesterday’s first race of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.
Jakes, who finished sixth after starting ninth, was able to overcome a pit miscue in which a radio miscommunication caused him to enter the pits for his first stop – only to have his No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts crew not be ready to service his car.
That forced the Englishman to come back in on the following lap, sending him to the rear of the field. But with the help of some timely yellows and hard driving on his part, Jakes was able to claw his way back up the pylon during the remainder of the 90-lap event.
“We managed to pick a lot of people off [in the first stint] and the car was working well but then we had a miscommunication in the pits and did an extra pit stop than we needed to,” Jakes said. “We had to work our way up from there. It’s a shame because I think without that we could have been on the podium. We will see what [today] brings.”
The sixth-place run also snapped an extended cold streak for Jakes, who had not banked a Top-10 run since placing second in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit. Additionally, he had bowed out early from the two previous races at Sonoma and Baltimore due to mechanical problems.
As for Rahal, he turned in a stellar performance, rocketing from 24th starting position to seventh at the finish in a drive that may have impressed his primary backer for the weekend, Blu Electronic Cigarettes (which has a major presence in the paddock this weekend at Reliant Park).
Adding more impressiveness to Rahal’s effort is that he was one of several drivers that were assessed a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change on his No. 15 Honda.
“To go from 24th to seventh is always a good day – you can’t complain,” Rahal said. “I think we could have, and should have had [Jakes] and [fifth-place Josef] Newgarden there at the end but ran out of time. There was some close racing there so I just figured I would be a little bit smarter and lift off.”
With this morning’s qualifying session for Race 2 canceled due to heavy rains, both drivers will have to start toward the back once again as the grid will be set by entrant points. Rahal will go off 18th, Jakes from 20th.