We asked Dale Coyne Racing driver James Jakes to give INDYCAR Nation fans an idea of what this weekend’s Rookie Orientation Program holds for the Indy 500’s rookie drivers. He was kind enough to give us a quick interview about the rookie experience as he prepares to challenge the Speedway for the first time!
Thanks for your time, James. I know this is a busy sort of week for you! Can you give the fans an idea of how your Rookie Orientation Program schedule is going to go?
JJ: The day begins with a drivers meeting Thursday at 7.45am and then we start testing at 8.30am .The program consists of turning consistent laps at four speed phases on the 2.5-mile asphalt oval: 200-205 mph (five laps), and 10 laps each at 205-210 mph, 210-215 and 215 or more.
What benchmarks does an Indy 500 rookie need to hit in order to be allowed to begin practice with the veteran drivers?
JJ: We have to complete all 4 phases before they will allow us to take part in the event,the final run will be 10 laps at 215mph or more.
Looking at the other drivers in this rookie class, it’s a pretty impressive list. With Indy 500 veteran (and last year’s 4th-place finisher) Alex Lloyd as a teammate, do you think that’s going to help your transition both at Indy and onto the oval portion of the schedule?
JJ: Yes, for sure Alex's feedback will be greatly appreciated; he did an amazing job last year finishing 4th and the outcome would of been different again if the race had not of ended under caution. I’m sure we will work well together in helping the team move forward.
We’re looking at an entry list of 40+ drivers, and definitely the most competitive, complete group of drivers we’ve seen in the IZOD IndyCar Series in some time. How do you deal with the pressure during the month, and what’s it going to take for your team to make this field?
JJ: For me this is no different from an oval to a road cours;e there is always a maximum number of starters at each event, it just happens that some people will not make the race here because of the number of entries. I’m pretty confident we can do a good job, and once the testing starts your just focused on getting the maximum out of what you have and come next weekend your either in or out .
Has the scope of being on the entry list with a chance to be in the Centennial Anniversary of the Indy 500 hit home yet? Are you starting to see some of the signs of how big of an event this is?
JJ: It has started to hit home a little bit already,when I checked into the hotel this evening they told me I was staying for 19 nights. I have never heard that whilst racing--it took me by surprise a little. Also arriving at the track this afternoon, even with not many people around the place has an aura about it, and I am sure tomorrow morning it will step up again rookie test and just get bigger and bigger through the week.
We see a lot of drivers listening to music on headphones while they’re waiting to get on the track. Do you listen to any certain songs or artists to get you in the right mindset to get out there?
JJ: I do listen to music from time to time before driving ; something like Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter. I prefer something a little more laid back and chilled. If you are confident in what you do music like that brings a real smile to your face and really helps you soak up the atmosphere.
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-update INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate.