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Ed Jones ‘comfortable’ while still learning at first IndyCar oval test

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The only new driver to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Ed Jones, had a busier test this past week at Phoenix International Raceway than most of the other 20 drivers in the field.

The driver of the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda took his rookie test on Wednesday, banking about 120 laps to pass his first test as an official rookie participant this season.

Jones, who turned 22 on Sunday, then battled through lingering effects of mono on Saturday before resuming in the final evening session of the test to complete his running for the week. He left the track for a couple hours to rest up, but came back prior to the night session.

In the four official sessions, Jones completed 175 laps, but the number gets closer to 300 when you factor in the rookie day on Wednesday.

The Dubai-based Brit, whose U.S. home is in Miami, said he was more comfortable than he expected as he dealt with the heavier car, traffic and race-like conditions on an oval in anger for the first time.

“Overall it’s been a good couple of days,” Jones said. “The first session yesterday went really well but I struggled a little bit more in the night session when we were simulating race running. It was my first time running like that so it was a lot to take in. We were also practicing pit stops without laps and in laps.

“We knew it was going to be hard but I guess that it’s just part of the learning process and I’ll be better next time.”

Led by engineer Michael Cannon, Jones’ team opted for a more conservative program keeping the car in higher downforce configuration rather than trimming out any. Considering there were four crashes on Saturday, ensuring Jones brought the car home in one piece was a key for both him and the Coyne team.

“I feel comfortable in the car. I also think a lot of the guys went on low trim runs as well so that’s why they did so many quick times,” said Jones, whose best time of 19.5399 seconds (188.292 mph) ranked 18th in the 21-car field.

“We left it on high downforce the whole time making it hard to compare. I have some catching up to do on that side because I haven’t had that experience before but it’s all part of the learning curve.”

Teammate Sebastien Bourdais had a good test as well, working with his engineering group led by Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson. The driver of the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda was ninth for the combined times, with a best time of 19.3236 seconds (190.399 mph) in 284 laps.

Coyne himself told NBC Sports this was a “good” test and he was relieved to have had the program finalized several months in advance, which has allowed the team to build for the rest of the season without any late delays.

Recapping the 2018 Dakar Rally with “best of” video highlights

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

As it has done so for four decades, the 40th annual Dakar Rally – the most grueling test of man and machine anywhere – produced a number of surprise finishes and also several disappointments for drivers or riders who were expected to do well in the nearly 5,600-mile trek that began in Peru and continued through Bolivia and ending in Argentina.

NBCSN has aired highlights from all 14 stages (actually 13, because one stage was completely rained out) during the Rally’s two-week run, which concluded Saturday.

Here’s some of the “best of” highlights from the overall Rally highlights, followed by a quick guide that gives you wrapups to all 14 stages.

So, without further adieu, here’s NBCSN’s “best of” the 2018 Dakar Rally:

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of cars

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of bikes

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of trucks

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of quads

Lastly, here’s a day-by-day wrapup of how the Rally played out.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 14 overall Rally wrapup

MORE: Stage 13 wrapup

MORE: Stage 12 wrapup

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup