UAE-born racer continues impressive 2018 campaign
Dubai-born Ed Jones rolled the dice in last weekend’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park – digging deep to tally a seventh top-ten finish of the 2018 campaign.
The race was round 15 of 17 on the fiercely-disputed Verizon IndyCar Series calendar and whilst his late podium bid didn’t quite come off under the Illinois floodlights, he nevertheless impressed.
Unlike many of their rivals, Chip Ganassi Racing did not undergo testing at the 1.25-mile St. Louis oval earlier this year, meaning IndyCar sophomore Jones headed into the weekend somewhat on the back foot.
However, the British driver was immediately on the pace behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater, lapping fifth-quickest among the 21 contenders in FP1 – a session repeatedly interrupted by rain that left puddles of standing water at the entry to the pit-lane.
With the elements playing havoc with the track schedule, qualifying was cancelled in favour of a longer final practice to allow drivers and teams more time to dial their cars in for the following evening’s 248-lap race. Jones improved to fourth in that session.
The field lined up in championship order, meaning Jones took the start from 12th position but he gained three spots straight away and soon settled into seventh, chasing former champions Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Breaking away from the pursuing pack and pegging leader Dixon for pace – at one stage posting the fastest lap of anybody at an average speed of 177.362mph – the European F3 Open Champion went on a charge.
Pulling off a series of spectacular overtakes, he scythed his way past Pagenaud, defending title-holder and Gateway race-winner Josef Newgarden and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi, before latching onto his team-mate’s tail.
A late splash ‘n’ dash fuel top-up with 22 laps to go dropped Jones to 10th, from where he battled back to eighth at the chequered flag.
The 23-year-old 2016 Indy Lights Champion and 2017 IndyCar ‘Rookie of the Year’ will return to the fray this coming weekend (August 30-September 2) for the Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway, the penultimate round on IndyCar’s 2018 schedule.