SEBRING, Fla. – Ed Jones climbed from his car shortly before noon Wednesday at Sebring International Raceway and removed his helmet and balaclava, revealing a face dripping with sweat.
The rookie has been working hard.
Jones' second day in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda was as busy -- if not busier -- than his first test session on Tuesday. While no official statistics were kept for the private test, the evidence of him recording the most laps among the five drivers participating was clear to Jones.
“I’ve been out there most of the time,” Jones said during his 30-minute lunch break Wednesday. “I think I’ve done the most of anyone. That’s the thing, though. I might only get one more day of practice before (the March 12 season opener at) St. Pete, and the testing is so limited for a rookie. You’ve just got to do as many laps as you can.”
It was the first on-track experience as a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series driver for Jones, the 21-year-old rookie who was hired by Dale Coyne during the offseason after claiming the Indy Lights championship in 2016. Jones, who had two half-days with Rahal Letterman Lanigan as part of INDYCAR’s young driver program, had been set for his Coyne testing debut at Sebring early December, but that session was canceled because of poor weather.
After a brief delay Wednesday morning because of fog, conditions improved dramatically, allowing Jones as much valuable seat time as he could handle. He shared the track with teammate Sebastien Bourdais and AJ Foyt Racing's Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing chose not to test because of the delay.
With testing restrictions and favorable weather in mind, Jones and Dale Coyne Racing chose to pound as many laps as possible.
“It makes it so difficult,” he said. “It’s not like a few years ago, when people were doing 20 test days before they jumped into their first race," he said. "We have like three or four, so it makes track time so important. You’ve got to do as much with these days as you can.”
The promising newcomer brings an impressive resume, including time in Formula Renault and Formula 3, where he won the European F3 Open Championship in 2013. In 2014, he joined Carlin Motorsport, which eventually led him to Indy Lights in 2015 and last year's championship.
That led to this test, which led to a hot but happy driver.
“I feel even better with it this morning,” he said. “I feel like we’re making more progress.”