This year feels a lot like a homecoming for Ed Jones. Not only because the 26-year-old Dubai-born Briton returned to the NTT IndyCar Series, but also because he took back the wheel of his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan Honda.
After winning the Indy Lights championship in 2016, Jones made the jump the following season to North America’s premier open-wheel championship and into that aforementioned No. 18 entry with Coyne’s. In his first Indianapolis 500 — and sixth career IndyCar start — he nearly pulled the upset victory but was forced to settle for third in a car that actually lost its nose cone.
That performance, blended with a few top-10s, put him on the radar of team owner Chip Ganassi, for whom he ended up driving during the 2018 season. The musical chairs act carried him to Ed Carpenter Racing the year after, and then, largely due to the pandemic, he was without a ride in 2020.
Now, though, he’s back where it all started and at a track that delivered his breakout performance. And, interestingly, he is starting 11th — the exact same position he started in 2017.
“The month has gone very smoothly, so far,” said Jones. “We didn’t quite optimize qualifying as much as we’d like, but I’m still in a strong position to start. We worked on the race car lot and it feels pretty good. The way the team works, I really like it in the sense that it’s one of the smaller teams, but they’re very efficient with the resources they have. You know, there’s some teams (with) much more resources, but I feel like they still don’t optimize that as much as they could or they’re not as far ahead as they should be. So, it’s been great working with all the engineers and although there’s been a lot of change of people, it’s still the same methods and things.”
The opening five races of this season has been a mix of frustration for Jones, with a best-finish of 12th to show for his efforts. However, the combination of more time to settle back into the team and plenty of time on track has him feeling good entering his fourth 500.
“You know, to be honest, I’ve been pretty confident from the beginning,” said Jones, now a veteran of 52 IndyCar starts. “There’s certain weekends where we didn’t have everything working on the car up until warm-up and you’re so far on the back foot then that it’s really hard to recover. So, it’s just about having clean weekends. We actually haven’t had one of those this year so far, and I’m hoping this will be the first one.”