James Jakes ends his best weekend in IndyCar with first podium

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Mike Conway stole the early headlines this weekend in Detroit as the “spoiler British driver,” but come Sunday, the other under-the-radar Englishman in the IZOD IndyCar Series field – James Jakes – had his day.

Jakes spent the first two years of his career in Dale Coyne’s second car, and rarely made a huge impression. That said, being a mistake-free, clean and relatively quick driver who was close enough on times to teammate Justin Wilson has earned him his place within the field.

This year, Jakes has been a man reborn in the new confines of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He’s meshed well with engineer Eddie Jones, and the No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda has shown further speed increases, often times outqualifying teammate Graham Rahal.

Jakes struggled massively on Firestone’s red alternate tires in Saturday’s Chevrolet Indy Dual at Detroit race one, and fell to a disappointing 10th place from third on the grid. Come Sunday, the RLL team had found a much nicer balance on the reds, and he had a chance from second on the grid, where he finished.

“We qualified on the blacks this week because the car was working so well on them,” Jakes explained. “We really, really struggled on the reds. The game plan yesterday was to put them on and get them out of the way as quick as possible. We did that, but we lost so much ground.

“I mean, we knew we wanted a chance at a podium today, maintaining a position where we started, we had to find a bit of consistency on the reds,” he added. “Big credit to the guys because we found a lot. Yesterday in the race we couldn’t get in the 79s on red. Today we got in the 77s or low 78s. Without that we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

More than finding a setup on the reds, Jakes also had to avoid the first-turn pileup on lap 28, and he almost made it through unscathed. He needed a front wing change and was “hit from all angles,” but otherwise emerged without damage.

“I actually hurt my wrist, the one I hurt a couple years ago, so I was a bit worried about that,” he noted. “We had a window towards the end of the race where everyone pitted in front of us, the track really opened up, and we were able to leapfrog a lot of people. That’s what put us in the position really.”

His day included some surprise guests – Jakes’ girlfriend made last-minute arrangements to fly up to Detroit from Orlando, and Jakes’ fan club, “Jakesy Nation,” was also in attendance and viewed Sunday’s race from pit side grandstands in Turn 1.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.