INDYCAR rookie Jones off to solid start with two top-10 finishes

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Ed Jones is on a roll.

Competing in his inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series season and with only two starts under his belt, the 22-year-old Brit who hails from Dubai already has two top-10 finishes to start his career.

The 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion backed up his 10th-place finish in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, last month with a sixth-place finish in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The No. 19 Boy Scouts Club of America Honda took on a three-stop approach from the 13th starting spot in the 85-lap race, but that strategy was backed up by strong pace as Jones fought all afternoon on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street circuit. It resulted in a career-best finish in his brief career, but perhaps even more impressive was how the Dale Coyne Racing driver maintained a clean race and never became intimidated while battling with some of the best in the business.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said. “There were quite a few cautions, which in the last few years here there hasn’t really been, so we weren’t expecting that, honestly. A few people were trying the two-stop strategy and then bailed on it after all of the different issues.

“But Seb (teammate Sebastien Bourdais) stayed with it and also got a great result (finishing second). It was an awesome effort by the team to get a second and sixth. My race was quite eventful. The whole time I was racing, there was people on track (nearby), which is good, but it’s good to come home with a sixth place.

“The aim was to come home with another top 10 this weekend and we’ve achieved that. Every time we are coming out, we are making big jumps. I’m just looking forward to the next one. I am very anxious to see where we can be. I think the next goal is to make the top 12 in qualifying and see where we can go from there.”

A previous winner of the 2015 Indy Lights event at Long Beach, the progression up to North America’s top open-wheel series this season has come with its fair share of difficulties.

“Obviously, the races are just so much longer,” said Jones. “The different tires made a big difference (in the handling). I really struggled when I was on the black (primary) tires, especially on the out laps. The first few laps it’s really slippery. The reds (alternate tires) suited us much better. Also, just it being a longer race with the different strategies and making it work.”

The two-car effort put forth this season by the smaller Dale Coyne Racing has already collected one win, two podiums and four top-10s to start the season.

“It just shows how much effort Dale and the entire team have put in and taken the team to another level over the winter with both the drivers and the engineers, and all the investment to improve the cars,” said Jones.

Coyne echoed the efforts put in by the team, and took it a step further with what both Jones and Bourdais have accomplished just two races into the 2017 season.

“Maybe it’s not a fluke,” he said. “Ed’s done a great job. I mean, he really did good. We messed up on the last stop, otherwise he could have been fifth or sixth in St. Pete, but to rebound and get a sixth (Sunday) was good.”

Jones and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series head to the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course at Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 23 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

And Jones is ready, saying. “I can’t wait to go to Barber and see what we can do then."

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