Sometimes a run to sixth place in an NTT IndyCar Series race feels like a win. That was sentiment lingering within the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan team on Sunday after Ed Jones wheeled the No. 18 Honda to its finest result in a season filled with disappointments.
A rough experience in qualifying at Nashville left Jones sitting 26th – next to last – ahead of Sunday’s 80-lap race, and once the crazy contest was over, the No. 18 had improved 20 positions and turned a nightmare into celebrations for the DCRwVS squad.
The achievement required an added layer of complexity to overcome as Jones was given a drive-through penalty for hitting and spinning a rival, which dropped the No. 18 car to last on lap 24. Over the next 56 laps, Jones methodically worked his way forward, all while stretching his fuel mileage to carry out a two-stop plan. After the final caution flag was lifted, Jones was on pace to finish eighth, but he claimed a top six after executing a couple of daring passes in the final laps.
“What a difference a day makes… gruesome qualifying on Saturday and Sunday was absolutely electric for us,” co-owner James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan told RACER.
“Ed and the SealMaster machine were in sync. In a way, Ed getting the penalty and drive through took the race to the next level for us; after that, Ed flat out threw down. Ed’s fuel management was on point, which was critical to give us the chance to defend and also attack Felix Rosenqvist when it counted on the last lap, which Ed did.”
Beyond Jones’ fine race result, there was added meaning to his performance as the DCRwVS crew arrived in Nashville with heavy hearts. Team co-owner Jimmy Vasser lost his father in the days leading up to the event, and if the dark cloud hanging over the season wasn’t enough to deal with, the passing of James Vasser cast a deeper pall on the No. 18 program.
In light of all that’s happened of late with the No. 18 program and Vasser’s personal loss, Sulli was thankful for the relief and celebration that arrived after the checkered flag flew over Nashville.
“We had Jimmy’s dad riding on the car with us, and topping it off, we had the Silverback’s grandson Cole on the crew with us all weekend,” he said. “Yesterday was a P6 that felt like we left soaked in champagne.”