Hinchcliffe And Jakes Excel With Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

James Hinchcliffe shown maneuvering through tight hairpin turn in Long Beach. [Joe Jennings Photo]

James Hinchcliffe shown maneuvering through tight hairpin turn in Long Beach. [Joe Jennings Photo]

Long Beach, Calif. – Flashy James Hinchcliffe and quiet-spoken James Jakes arrived in Long Beach brimming with confidence after excelling in last weekend’s Grand Prix of Louisiana. Winning and finishing on the podium can do wonders for a driver’s spirits and the duo did just that on the wet Louisiana road course with Hinchcliffe winning and Jakes finishing third. Their accomplishments also gladdened the hearts of their new employer, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Due to the damp conditions and a near-term travel schedule, the outgoing Hinchcliffe had little time to celebrate and he has yet to view a replay of the race. “I had to go directly to Toronto to film a commercial for Honda, but I have thought about the race a lot and how good of a call the team made,” Hinchcliffe said after arriving in Long Beach.

Owing to the adverse weather, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team gambled by putting Hinchcliffe on a one-stop fuel strategy, a decision that paid off with a victory, his fourth in the series and the first with SPM.

“It was a brave decision but luckily it paid off. Sometimes those decisions are a bit of a risk, but they called it right,” Hinchcliffe, 28, said with a smile. “When I heard the call, I had a 50/50 opinion but once every other car pitted and we were the only one left out, I was a little less than 50/50 thinking, ‘We are going to either look like hero’s or zero’s,’ but luckily it came up our way.”

Regarding the win for Schmidt Peterson, he added, “To get that first win out of the way early is great but we are under no illusion as there is still a lot of work to do. It is not like we qualified on the pole and led every lap. There is still some speed to be unlocked in the car, but I am confident as the team makes progress every time I get in it.
“When I signed with the team, we knew it would take time and while there’s lots of work to be done, we will take it. It goes to show how smart these guys are as so many of these races are not about having the fastest car but about doing the best job and being the smartest guys out there. We kept our nose clean on the track and we made great calls from the stand, which gave us the win.”

Teammate Jakes, 27, wasn’t quite as thrilled with the outcome as he had thoughts of victory running through his head. Even though he started far back in 22nd, the Brit steadily moved through the field and running on a two-stop fuel strategy, he battled fiercely with runner-up Helio Castroneves with the two trading second place as the race wound down. “Had the race gone longer, I thought I could get by Castroneves and be in position for the win,” Jakes said.

For Jakes, the 2015 season is a comeback of sorts as he didn’t have a ride in 2014 after running with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing the previous year. While there, he registered a best finish of second at Belle Isle. Throughout last season, Jakes spent his time talking with teams and potential sponsors in hopes of coming up with funding for 2015.

Teaming with Hinchcliffe has been a plus for Jakes, who listens closely to the wisdom disseminated by his teammate and the direction given by co-owner Sam Schmidt and company. Hinchcliffe and Jakes have been putting their heads together to strengthen the team’s performance. “We are working together a ton, and it is working out well,” Hinchcliffe said. “We have similar driving styles, so in a year when you have special development because of the aero kits, it makes development a lot easier. Seeing him on the podium after a year off was special and for the team itself. Every week I think we are going to get better and stronger, but so won’t the other teams.”

Co-owner Schmidt commented, “We’ve been in top three in points the last three years, so these two guys have a lot to live up to. We knew that Simon Pagenaud was moving on and when James (Hinchcliffe) became available, it was a blessing for us as we had had him in Indy Lights a while back and with our culture, we thought he would do well with us. And for “Buckshot” (Jakes), we had been talking with him on and off for a couple of years trying to do something for us, so all is good as is the chemistry.”

Regarding the win in Louisiana, Schmidt said the win came in same manner as did his team’s three previous wins. “It was a huge morale boost for the team,” he noted. “The reality is I thought we took a helluva chance (my call) on the Jakes strategy and then when (race strategist) Robert Gue doesn’t pit Hinchcliffe, I thought, ‘Holy crap – how did he do that?’ as I thought we were going to win the race with the Jakes strategy. And then our own team outfoxed us, but it wound up working out well and gave a boost to the young guys on the team.”

Schmidt, Hinchcliffe and Jakes realize the season is long and they have a lot to learn, but they also are thrilled with the way it has started for them.

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