Who is Jake?
Jake. Whenever I hear that name, for me, I first think of the pet crow who was named Jake that the old prison inmate Brooks had in the movie "Shawshank Redemption". Other movie buffs might first think of John Belushi as Jake in "The Blues Brothers". Bronco football fans here in Denver might think of, Jake (The Snake) Plummer. Die hard Corvette Racing fans know Jake as the official mascot of Corvette Racing.
While I do not claim to be a big-time racing enthusiast or one that knows all Corvette related trivia and minutiae, seeing all the Jake skull related merchandise for sale in on-line stores and stickers on cars made me wonder, "Who is Jake and how did he come to be?" So, armed with this question, I decided to seek the answer and share my findings with others who might not know the origin of this famous icon.
The genesis of Jake is strongly tied to Gary Claudio. Gary was a Corvette Racing Marketing Manager who presided over the racing inspired launch of the ZR1, came up with the ZR1 driving school and worked hard to make sure the customer was excited about what Corvette was doing next. On the racing side, he worked with Doug Fehan to develop the factory Corvette Racing Program that is running today. He also started Corvetteracing.com, Badboyvettes.com, and he also came up with the Corvette mascot name, “Jake” as noted on Gary's Hall of Fame page of the National Corvette Museum's website.
In 2004, the Corvette Racing Team was in its final and 4th championship winning ALMS season with the venerable GT1 class C5-R race car. After winning multiple ALMS championships as well as at the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team began using the "Take No Prisoners" moto (which was actually scrawled on the wall of the Corvette pit) along with a generic skull logo. The picture below shows the original "generic" skull that was used on the race cars.
It was here at Le Mans where Eddie Jabbour, of Kick Design, and the crew from BadBoyVettes, a dedicated group of fans that brought a viral approach to racing, were in the stands. Together, they had an opportunity to sit down with the Corvette Racing Team to discuss how they could help make the unofficial skull logo into something more. BadBoyVettes and Corvette Racing contacted Kick Design and with the team's mentality in mind, Jabbour sketched on a cocktail napkin what would eventually become one of the greatest automotive marketing logos of our generation, the Corvette crossed flags within a dark skull outline.
Jake made his first official appearance, albeit in small form, underneath the XM Radio sponsorship decal on the B-pillar of the new Corvette C6-R racer during the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans race and also as a spray painted stencil on the ground outside of Corvette Racing's pit stall. From there, Jake really took off, landing himself on team uniforms, driver's helmets and memorabilia with BadBoyVettes at the helm of this genius viral marketing scheme.
As for how this skull icon came to be named Jake? According to Jalopnik.com, "How Jake truly received his name has been kicked around quite a bit, but the one story that comes up frequently is that a former New York City cop, Gary Claudio, named the skull after notorious movie badass, Jake, from the Blues Brothers film. We've also been told that the name was given after being thrown around the Corvette Racing Team's garage for a few weeks, but either way, it's pretty damn fitting."