James Jakes goes from cellar to podium in Grand Prix of Louisiana

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The rain couldn’t keep James Jakes down in Round 2 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season at NOLA Motorsports Park, as the British driver helped give Schmidt Peterson Motorsports two of the three podium spots with a third-place finish.

Rain kept Jakes, in the No. 7 Mediatech Advertising Honda, out of the Firestone Fast Six on Saturday, forcing him to start in 22nd based on points after finishing there in the season opener in St. Petersburg.

Those conditions continued into Sunday morning.

“I think all 24 drivers at noon were looking at the clouds and thinking there is no way we’re going to get this in,” Jakes said after the race.

“I knew that if it was going to be a tricky day, and if you just kept your nose clean and we run the right strategy, we’d get a good result. Those conditions seem to favor us.”

It would be a tricky day for Jakes, who spun his car after a Lap 21 restart. Jack Hawksworth tried to avoid him, but wound up in a tire barrier for his efforts.

Jakes said the incident was caused by a combination of racing in “nightmare” conditions, and with the environment like a “river” on that portion of the track from the rain.

“That painted concrete is so slippery in those conditions,” Jakes said.

But Jakes essentially described the incident as a blessing in disguise for the driver who was in only his second IndyCar race after being out of the series for a year.

“That actually helped us because we then pitted,” Jakes said. “The guys in front realized they had to stop one last time before the end of the race, and we didn’t.  So I think there was four or five cars, those two, maybe Tony (Kanaan) and Simona (de Silvestro) and a few others that got straight up to the front and were able to run there from the end.”

In the end, Jakes stood on his first podium since 2013 in Detroit race two for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. After 2013, the team scaled back to one car, Graham Rahal, and Jakes emerged without a ride for 2014.

“Nice to be back after a year out, second weekend and second podium,” Jakes said  “Thanks to the team.  Great strategy.  It was very difficult out there.  We’ve not had the season start we kind of wanted.  We struggled a little bit pace‑wise, I think (that’s) not entirely all our fault.”

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit

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Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.