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Ed Jones shining in rookie season with Coyne

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It’s hard to believe Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Ed Jones had never run an IndyCar race prior to last month’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. With two top tens (tenth and sixth) to his name in the first two races, Jones has been driving with the poise and consistency of a veteran, not the dramatics of a young driver desperate make a name for himself.

As a result, Jones is indeed starting to make a name for himself. In fact, the British driver is putting himself in good company. The last time an IndyCar rookie scored top tens in each of his first two starts was in 1993, and the driver was Nigel Mansell. That year, Mansell scored a victory on debut in Australia before finishing third in Long Beach. A race at Phoenix Raceway split the two, but Mansell missed the event due to a concussion after a practice crash.

Jones’ finishes are not going to garner the headline’s that Mansell’s did. But, they are no less impressive. Team owner Dale Coyne is elated with Jones’ opening races. “Ed did a phenomenal job. You have to watch Ed during the race. Sebastien couldn’t get around Marco Andretti in the first stint at St. Pete, but Ed got around Andretti in the second stint at St. Pete, and Ed got around Rahal here,” Coyne said of his rookie driver. “He’s passing people on the track. He’s racing really well. He got a sixth here, he should have had a sixth at St. Pete but he got it here and he’s doing a very good job. I’m very happy with Ed’s progress.”

Jones was a little more muted in his comments, and directed a lot of the credit to Coyne and the team he has built. Still, Jones is gaining confidence with every race. “It’s great to be in the top 10 again with a sixth. Another great effort by the team as well with Seb finishing second,” he said of the team’s Long Beach outing. “I said this at St. Pete, it shows the effort that Dale has put into the team with the drivers, engineers, the development, the whole package to take the team to another level this year and the proof is the first two races. It’s clear to see. I’m really excited. We made big jumps this weekend from St. Pete and I can’t wait to get to Barber to make even more.”

Currently, Jones sits seventh in the championship, two points clear of former champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”