Monday, August 31, 2015

LASTCAR EXTRA: James Jakes Crashes During Emotional IndyCar Finale at Sonoma

“There’s nowhere on earth I’d rather be than right here, right now.”

The veteran photographer spoke those words on the verge of tears.  He, like many of us in the media center, on pit road, and in the grandstands, had been struggling with how to approach Sunday’s season finale for the Verizon IndyCar Series.  Justin Wilson’s sudden and terrible passing at Pocono was too fresh a wound, and to anticipate a championship battle less than six days later created so much dissonance that it frequently felt inappropriate.

But from fans, drivers, and media alike, there was, it seemed, a shared sense that the Sonoma Raceway was where everyone needed to be, whether it was to mourn or celebrate.  It’s this sense of community, and the promoters' respectful handling of it, that I will remember best about Sunday’s race.

Thank you to IndyCar, NBC Sports, and especially to Steve Page and the staff of the Sonoma Raceway for putting on an excellent event under very difficult circumstances.

* * *

SOURCE: Brock Beard
James Jakes finished last in Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at the Sonoma Raceway when his #7 MediaTech / MavTV Honda was involved in a single-car crash that ended his run after 63 of the race’s 85 laps.  The finish was Jakes’ first of the 2015 season, his first since this same event in 2013, and came in his 66th career start.

This year, Jakes returned from a one-year absence in the Verizon IndyCar Series to drive for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, an entry vacated following last October’s injury suffered by rookie driver Mikhail Aleshin at Fontana.  Aleshin made his return to the series at Sonoma race as Jakes’ teammate in the #77.  Also present at the track was fellow teammate Conor Daly, last in this year’s Indianaplis 500 after an exhaust issue on the pace laps, who was acting as spotter for the Schmidt-Peterson team.

Jakes entered the race 16th in points but had earned his second career podium in the rain-shortened Grand Prix of Louisiana, and Pocono saw him score his fourth top-ten finish of the season.

Jakes was 21st-fastest in Friday’s nearly four-hour practice session and was slowest in the final two practices.  He turned in a lap of 110.223 mph in qualifying Group 2, good enough for 22nd on the starting grid.

Starting in the 25th and final spot in Sunday’s field was Jack Hawksworth, who was having a difficult weekend.  Hawksworth’s #41 ABC Supply Honda, the second team out of A.J. Foyt’s stables, made several trips through the dirt at the Turn 9 chicane, and one of them caused his car to leak fluid in qualifying, causing a red flag before Round 2.  Hawksworth held the final starting spot when the race started, but he was passed by rookie Gabby Chaves by the completion of Lap 1.

The first 32 laps of the race saw several early pit stops, and many drivers took turns running in the last spot.  Helio Castroneves took it on Lap 3 after an unsheduled stop for a broken wing on his #3 Hitachi Chevrolet.  Hawksworth returned to 25th on Lap 5, then traded with Tristan Vautier in Dale Coyne’s #19 Honda, the team Justin Wilson carried to his final career victory at Texas in 2012.  Hawksworth ran last on Lap 7, Chaves again on Lap 8, then Monaco native Stefano Coletti in KV Racing’s grey #4 Chevrolet.  Vautier took the position on Lap 24 and was still running there when the first caution of the afternoon came out.

Luca Filippi was back in CFH Racing’s #20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet which he’d taken to a podium with a runner-up finish at Tornoto in July.  Filippi was running mid-pack when the #20 slowed coming off Turn 11 and crept past the media center.  It first appeared to be a transmission issue as Filippi managed to make it around the rest of the track at a reduced speed, but when he made it to pit road, the crew was spending more time on the systems in the nose of the car.  Filippi fell to last, losing 5 laps as he sat on pit road, and when asked, crew members were unable to give information on what was wrong with the car.  Regardless, the team managed to get the #20 re-fired just in time for the restart, and he continued under power.  He held the 25th spot until Jakes found trouble in Turn 9.

Jakes was running 10th, but was complaining of brake issues as the race neared the end.  Apparently, the brakes went away completely at the entrance of the chicane, and he made contact with the outside wall before he hit the tire barriers with the left side of his car.  Fortunately, he climbed out uninjured, but the #7 was done for the afternoon.  This writer was unable to reach Jakes for comment on the accident, but he was able to ride his scooter out of the garage area.

Jakes was the only retiree from Sunday’s race.  Filippi remained five laps down at the finish while Vautier lost three circuits after issues of his own.  The only other lapped machines were those of Carlos Munoz in the #26 Honda and outside-polesitter and 6th-place points driver Josef Newgarden, whose #67 Hartman Oil Chevrolet lost valuable time after a small pit fire late in the event.

Ryan Briscoe, a past Sonoma winner and one of Jakes’ teammates, turned in a sterling 5th-place finish in the #5 Arrow / Lucas Oil Honda.  Briscoe finished with open track ahead of 6th-place Juan Pablo Montoya, who needed to pass Briscoe in order to beat race winner Scott Dixon for the series championship.  James Hinchcliffe, the season-opening driver of the #5, made his return to the cockpit on Thursday when he drove the Astor Cup across the Golden Gate Bridge for a promotional event.  Mikhail Aleshin finished 10th in his return to IndyCar, his second-straight top-ten finish at the track.

Equally impressive on the day were Rodolfo Gonzalez, who came home 9th in Dale Coyne’s #18 Honda after finishing no better than 18th in his five previous starts, and Sebastian Saavedra, who passed Marco Andretti for the lead under green on Lap 20 before settling for 13th in Chip Ganassi’s #8 AFS Chevrolet.

25) #7-James Jakes / 63 laps / crash
24) #20-Luca Filippi / 80 laps / running
23) #19-Tristan Vautier / 82 laps / running
22) #26-Carlos Munoz / 84 laps / running
21) #67-Josef Newgarden / 84 laps / running

1st) Stefano Coletti (3)
2nd) Jack Hawksworth (2)
3rd) Helio Castroneves, Conor Daly, Francesco Dracone, Carlos Huertas, James Jakes, Pippa Mann, Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Munoz, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato (1)

1st) A.J. Foyt, Dale Coyne Racing, KV Racing Technology, Penske Racing (3)
2nd) Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports (2)
3rd) Andretti Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1)

1st) Honda (10)
2nd) Chevrolet (6)

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