Ed Jones showed so much promise in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was fitting that the Verizon IndyCar Series rookie of the year returned to the historic venue today as a happy new hire for Chip Ganassi Racing.
The 22-year-old driver from Dubai, who finished third for Dale Coyne Racing in his first Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, admitted he was stunned and honored to be coveted by such a successful powerhouse team as Ganassi and to have an opportunity to team with four-time INDYCAR champion Scott Dixon.
“It was an amazing feeling, something I’ve been working towards,” said Jones, who will drive the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. “At the same time, it was a surprise. I’ve always been working for this and feel I proved what I could do and I’m confident that, with the right work and the right time, I can be right at the front and deliver what Chip wants.”
From Day 1, Jones understands what the boss desires most.
“Chip Ganassi Racing has two goals: Win the championship and win the ‘500,’” said Jones, who was at IMS to watch Dixon and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' James Hinchcliffe testing the new universal aero kit for Honda on the 2.5-mile oval.
The team has thrived in Indy car racing with 11 titles and 103 race victories, including four Indy 500s. Dixon won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2008, Dario Franchitti claimed two of his three Indy 500 triumphs with Ganassi in 2010 and 2012 and Juan Pablo Montoya prevailed in 2000. As a partner with Pat Patrick in 1989, Ganassi also won an Indy 500 and Indy car season title with driver Emerson Fittipaldi.
“It’s a dream come true to be part of such a great organization,” Jones said. “The No. 10 car, especially, there’s so much history there, other drivers like (Dan) Wheldon and Franchitti winning the Indy 500. I’ve been working so hard for this opportunity. I finally got my chance and I’m going to do everything I can to make it work. I know it’s down to me to make my own part of history with the team and be able to have a long, successful career.
“Scott (Dixon is) a legend of INDYCAR. To have an opportunity to work alongside him, I’m very fortunate. I’m going to be trying to learn as much as possible as I can and get everything out of him as quickly as possible. It’s going to be such a gain having someone like him alongside me. There’s just so much knowledge there and experience.”
Chip Ganassi Racing is shifting its focus to two cars in 2018 instead of four to better concentrate its efforts.
“We wanted to go back to where our roots are, which is running two solid cars with two race drivers driving them, one with a lot of experience in Scott Dixon and one who is on the threshold of getting to where he needs to be,” said Mike Hull, the team’s managing director. “There were four drivers on our list when we started looking for drivers. Ed was certainly one of those drivers. We thought we had missed the opportunity with him and then found out recently that we didn’t, so we made a deal with him.
“I’m really excited about him. I think he represents the positive things about the (Mazda Road to Indy) ladder system in INDYCAR racing. He proved last year that he was able to make a good transition. I don’t know that you ever really know how somebody like Ed is going to come through the system and excel or not excel. I think he did a good job of representing the lineage of the ladder system. He does a lot of things right and a lot of things that we think are important, a lot of value and a lot of integrity in the way he races. He’ll do a terrific job representing all of us, INDYCAR racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and NTT Data.”
Jones’ best rookie result was in the Indy 500, a third-place finish that was a much-needed boost to Dale Coyne Racing, which was looking to bounce back after pole contender and four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais was sidelined by a qualifying crash. Jones had four more top-10 finishes in 17 starts, including sixth in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and seventh in the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America. He ended up 14th in the points.
“I’ve always loved racing,” Jones said. “When I was young, I started karting when I was 4. It was all just for fun. Every year, it got more serious from when I was 14 or 15. INDYCAR was always on the radar. I initially started in Europe, but I always looked to the Indy 500 and it was a goal of mine.
“Having this opportunity will give me an even better go at winning the race in years to come.”
Dixon, whose 41 Indy car wins rank fourth on the all-time list, looks forward to working with his new teammate.
“Ed is a really pleasant person and a guy I’ve spent a little bit of time with through the duration of last season,” Dixon said. “I’m excited to welcome him to the team and excited to see how he gets on. Unfortunately, we don’t really get to work together until January, when we start team testing. It’s a big opportunity for him and I think he’s a great talent and I’m excited to see how he progresses.
“I’ve had a long tenure at Ganassi (starting in 2002). I think this is almost 20 teammates throughout those years. Ed’s going to be a great addition and hopefully someone that they can mold and use for many years to come.”