James Jakes

AVONDALE, Louisiana – It was difficult, James Jakes says, to watch Verizon IndyCar Series races on TV last year. The contoured seat of the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car is exceptionally more comfortable than his sofa in Orlando, Florida.

The 27-year-old Englishman, who has made 50 starts in the series, is testing alongside regular driver James Hinchcliffe at NOLA Motorsports Park with the focus of returning full time after a season on the sidelines.    

“It wasn’t a case of deciding to come back. I always wanted to be there, but obviously we live in a day and age where the financial institution plays a big part and it takes a long time to find partners and get the ball rolling again,” said Jakes, who contested the 2013 season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (career-best start and finish of second at Belle Isle 2).

“I’m still working toward that for this year. It’s nice to be able to come here and test with SPM these two days. They’ve tested a number of drivers over the winter, and I’m thankful to (co-owner) Sam (Schmidt) to be able to test for the first days at this new track. It’s always nice to be part of new things and there are a lot of new things this year in IndyCar.

“It’s a valuable test and hopefully I can help the team out and Hinch to work on the setup and see where we are at the end of the two days. It would be a great opportunity, but we have to take it step by step at the moment and see if me and Sam can connect the dots.”

Fourteen drivers are testing Feb. 10-11 on the 2.67-mile, 13-turn road course that will host the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 10-12. All but Jakes and Stefano Coletti, who is auditioning for the second KV Racing Technology ride, is signed for the season. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 27-29.

Jakes drove one of the Dale Coyne Racing cars in 2011-12 following eighth place in the GP3 Series standings in 2010. In '13, he started in the top 10 in two of the three final races with mixed results (sixth-place finish at Baltimore; crash in season finale at Auto Club Speedway).

“It’s definitely made me more hungry to be back in the series,” he said. “Nobody wants to sit on the sidelines while everybody is driving around, especially with how competitive we got toward the end of 2013 it made it frustrating. It helps you mature and gives you a different perspective on life.

“Hopefully, we can put something together for the year.”

Bronze Badges for Month of May on sale online

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that the Bronze Badges for the Month of May will feature four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser's 1970 winning car, the Johnny Lightning Special, in honor of the 45th anniversary of his first victory.

IMS Bronze Badges provide fans with gate access and the opportunity to visit the Gasoline Alley garage area for an insider's look as Verizon IndyCar Series drivers and their teams prepare for the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9 and the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24.

Month of May Bronze Badges are on sale at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway credential office and by visiting www.ims.com/bronzebadge.

Of note

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg announced the renewal of its partnerships with Chevrolet and Cadillac for its 2015 event. Chevrolet trucks and Cadillac cars will once again be the official vehicles for the upcoming event. ... Helio Castroneves will greet attendees April 15 at the Firestone Racing display at the North American Tire & Retread Expo in New Orleans. … Timothy Plan, a Florida-based family of mutual funds, has rejoined Jonathan Byrd’s Racing as a partner in the Indianapolis 500 entry for driver Bryan Clauson. Timothy Plan first appeared on the team’s car in the late 1990s.