While many drivers dream of being able to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series, that dream is coming true for Ed Jones this year as he will be driving for Dale Coyne Racing.
“I’m really looking forward to my first IndyCar season,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “There’s been a lot of work during the off-season by the team, as well, in taking in some new engineers, changes and having Sebastian on-board. The pre-season has gone testing really well so far. I feel really good going into St. Pete, feeling confident, that we can make a good first race. We know it’ll be tough as well, but we’re doing quite well, and Dale is putting in the work to keep improving.”
Last season, DCR was solid with Conor Daly scoring five top-10s, including a runner-up in Detroit, en route to finishing 16th in points. Since then, though, the team has been hard at working at improving the program to be stronger this season.
Coyne hired four-time CART Champion Sebastian Bourdais, who has scored eight career IndyCar victories through his career, as well as bringing in new engineers, including Craig Hampton and Oliver Boisson, which have both worked with Bourdais in the past. The decision was then made to hire Jones to drive the team’s second car.
Thus far, things have been going well between the teammates, with Jones noting how much of a help Bourdais has been already.
“I’m thankful for that, and it’s a great position to be in having someone with a lot of experience to learn from,” he said. “I think it’ll really show when we get to the race weekends. It’ll be important to have someone to talk about things, and help me move forward.”
The feeling is mutual between the teammates, as Bourdais expressed confidence in his young teammate while speaking with Popular Speed last month.
“He’s got the talent, not rushing through the series as he’s taken steps, and knows some about the ovals, so he’s not coming straight from Europe and having to learn tracks and rules,” Bourdais said. “So I think he’ll do a good job. For me, of course, it’s better to have an experienced teammate, but I knew all along that in Dale making the commitment on our side, there would have to be a compromise on the other side. I think a rookie can help you and the team in general. I think they picked a smart rookie who won’t do anything stupid and wreck stuff every weekend, so I’m happy with that.”
The discussion surrounding Jones’ move up to the IndyCar Series doesn’t just stop at Bourdais, either, as many people within the industry at expecting him to do well following the past two seasons in Indy Lights.
After becoming the European F3 Open Champion, Jones made his move to Indy Lights in 2015, winning three races and finishing third in points for Carlin Racing. Jones returned to Carlin this past season, putting together a very impressive run en route to his first career series championship.
After starting off the season with a 10th and a seventh, Ed Jones turned up the heat with four straight top-tw0 finishes to take over the points lead following the sixth race of the season. From there, he continued to put in the top-five performances, only slipping up on a couple of occasions. Though while the season was full of great moments, it’ll all be remembered by Jones’ teammate Felix Serellas letting him by on the last lap at Laguna Seca to clinch the championship ahead of Santiago Urruita.
By winning the championship, he picked up the $1 million Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires scholarship, which locked him in for three Verizon IndyCar Series races with any team he could make a deal with, including the Indianapolis 500. The award, combined with other sponsors, will allow Jones to run the No. 18 Honda on a full-time basis in 2017.
While there may be expectations on him based on these performances, Jones isn’t setting anything concrete till he sees how he and the team stack up against the competition in the series opener at St. Petersburg. However, he notes one of the keys will be learning as much as he can this year.
“They’ll be a lot more going on than I’m used to – pit stop strategies, fuel saving,” he said. “But I think we should be able to be on the podium towards the end of the season.”
He’s gotten the chance to test out the IndyCar thus far, taking part in the series open test at Phoenix International Raceway, where he felt he was able to get comfortable behind the wheel “quicker than expected.”
“I feel I’m jelling with the team real well,” he said. “I think Phoenix is one of the toughest ovals with how it is with the speed into the corners. The biggest surprise was the aerodynamics and how much it affects when you’re following another car. I had that in Indy Lights, but IndyCar is a much higher level.”
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