Ed Jones has fulfilled the next step on his climb up the North American open-wheel ladder. Dale Coyne Racing has filled its second full-season seat.
The long-time Indy car team based in Planfield, Ill., announced today it has signed Jones, the reigning Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion, to drive the No. 18 Honda in the 2017 the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Jones will team with veteran Sebastien Bourdais to compete the 17-race schedule.
“I’m hugely excited about stepping up to the Verizon IndyCar Series next year with Dale Coyne Racing,” said Jones, 21. “To reach an agreement as early as we have done is great news as it gives me plenty of time to settle into the team and get to know everybody properly so we can prepare as well as possible for the season ahead.”
Jones, a native of the United Arab Emirates of English descent, joined Indy Lights in 2015 after a successful run in lower-level European open-wheel series that included him becoming the youngest European F3 Open Champion three years ago at age 18. He achieved instant success in Indy Lights, winning the first three races of the 2015 season and winding up third in the point standings for Carlin.
Returning to Carlin in 2016, Jones won two races, collected eight pole positions and finished on the podium eight times to claim the championship. With the title came the $1 million Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires scholarship applied toward his 2017 ride in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“INDYCAR has been my goal ever since I left Europe to come and race in America,” Jones said, “and it’s crazy to think I’ll be joining the grid just two years after moving Stateside. Together with my management team and sponsors, I’ve worked so hard for this opportunity and I fully intend to grab it by the scruff of the neck and make the most of it.
“Although we spoke to a few teams, Dale Coyne Racing always stood out as the best option and Dale worked hard to make the deal happen.
Adding Jones continues a Dale Coyne Racing legacy of assisting talented young drivers dating as far back as Paul Tracy in the early 1990s. Team owner Dale Coyne said he was impressed with Jones’ run to the Indy Lights championship, especially at the season-ending doubleheader weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“Ed had a couple of remarkable seasons in Indy Lights and we’re very excited to have him join our team for his rookie INDYCAR campaign,” Coyne said. “I attended the season finale at Laguna Seca and Ed demonstrated a lot of poise, maturity and determination while under pressure, knowing that the championship was on the line. Those are all qualities that will serve him well in INDYCAR. I was very impressed with what I saw.”
Jones will be paired with veteran race engineer Michael Cannon and Coyne will serve as his race strategist. The team has also bolstered its engineering depth in the offseason by adding veterans Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson to work with Bourdais, the four-time Indy car champion who is tied for sixth in all-time wins with 35.
“He’s one of the best teammates I could ask for during my rookie season as I get used to everything,” Jones said of Bourdais. “He has a wealth of experience in the sport that I can draw upon and he seems like a really open and approachable guy. Not only that, but he will be an excellent benchmark, too, as he is still clearly one of the fastest drivers in the series. So for me, it’s the ideal scenario and I’m sure we’ll establish a strong working relationship to really drive the team forward.
“Whilst I’m aware I have a big learning curve ahead of me, my plan is to absorb as much information as I can and get onto the pace as quickly as possible,” Jones added. “And as a former driver himself, Dale understands what it’s like inside the cockpit, which will be hugely beneficial when it comes to talking about set-up and discussing feedback.”
The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season opens March 10-12 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.