Rookie Jones building confidence with each test

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Ed Jones had a positive first run in anger on an oval in a Verizon IndyCar Series car. He’s looking to build on that when most of the full-season entries participate in testing on Sebring International Raceway’s short road course this week.

The driver of the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda successfully completed his oval rookie orientation Feb. 8 at the 1.022-mile Phoenix Raceway and ended the series-wide open test a few days later without putting a wheel wrong.

“I’m pleased with the days we’ve had and I think it was better than what we’ve expected,” said Jones, the only fulltime rookie this season.

Though the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion has a background in road racing, he has excelled on ovals since coming to the United States in 2015. In six Indy Lights oval starts over two seasons, he finished second three times. One finish was a scant 0.0024 of a second to Dean Stoneman at the 2016 Freedom 100, the closest finish in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history

Those results have Jones driven to do better in his Verizon IndyCar Series opportunity.

“My last four oval races have been good,” he said. “I’ve had three seconds and a third. I still haven’t had the win, which is annoying.”

Jones, 22, noted that while the racing is similar, the greater speed and downforce levels produced by an Indy car compared to the Indy Lights car requires an adjustment.

“They’re both difficult to run in traffic,” he said. “It’s just another level in the Indy cars because you have much higher downforce and greater speeds. It’s very difficult. Even when the cars went faster than another one in traffic, it’s almost impossible to pass unless they make a mistake.”

Jones completed 251 laps over the two-day Phoenix test. He said having four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais as his Dale Coyne Racing teammate has been and will be beneficial.

“He is very helpful,” Jones said. “Whenever I have things that I ask, he knows. He’s been doing it for so long. It’s helpful to have someone like that.”

Michael Cannon, Jones’ engineer, gave his driver a thumbs-up after the test.

“After Ed tested on the Wednesday prior, we were able to trim the car sooner than others,” he said. “Second, having Seb's feedback gave us more confidence in the setup in general. He was solid; good pace in qualifying trim and suitably cautious in race trim.”

With the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg less than two weeks away, Jones has his sights set on being as prepared as possible. He’ll take advantage of an additional test day granted to rookies today at Sebring. It was a month ago that Jones tested with the team for the first time at Sebring.

“We need to take everything that we’ve learned from (Phoenix) and try to improve the car and myself and come back stronger,” Jones said.

The entire 21-car Verizon IndyCar Series field – with the exception of Bourdais – is expected to run at Sebring today and/or tomorrow in a private test not open to the public. It will serve as the final track time for drivers prior to the March 10 opening practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The race on March 12 airs live at noon at on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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