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Overlooked by Alonso: Could Coyne’s Ed Jones steal Indy 500?

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INDIANAPOLIS – Fernando Alonso has hogged the headlines as the top rookie – albeit in name only – for this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

But the Verizon IndyCar Series’ lone full-season rookie, Ed Jones, has been the revelation of the month of May and a potential spoiler in the works in today’s race.

The first driver from the United Arab Emirates to compete in the Indy 500 will roll off from 11th place in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

This is the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion’s first big oval race and the adjustment period to this full month has been something Jones has coped with well.

“It’s such a long month. It’s very tiring. And you try to rest as much as you can to be honest,” Jones told NBC Sports. “On those days off you rest, because it’s been so much driving – a week straight, and you have to be as efficient as you can on track. You have a lot of distractions.

“But it’s great the event is so big. There’s a lot I learned from Seb, which has been a massive help.”

Seb, of course, is Sebastien Bourdais – injured a little over a week ago but already having since been released from hospital and back at IMS today to have met his crew and met the media.

Jones’ steely resolve and determination shone through as he got back in the car after Bourdais’ crash with no visible signs of being affected by it.

“I think it was a massive crash. But he was so lucky. He’s in a lot of pain, but it could have been a lot worse,” Jones said.

“We all know it’s a part of racing. When you’re pushing the limits here, the margin for error is so small. Accidents are very costly. You hate to see it. But it’s part of racing. I felt confident going out, and going quick again.”

Jones was a hard luck second in the 2016 Freedom 100 to Dean Stoneman by just 0.0024 of a second. Racing in the ‘500 is something that he relishes for the challenge of it and for what he has had to learn and comprehend.

“It’s a lot more intense now. It’s very tough! There’s lot more attention on what you do,” he said.

“But it’s about getting through. I’m really looking forward to the race. There’s so many things to think about. It’s even things like coming into pits off Turn 4, you’re getting tired, that gets tricky.”

Team owner Coyne has hailed Jones’ performance all year, and particularly at Indianapolis this month.

“Ed’s had a very good month. He’s done a tremendous job,” Coyne told NBC Sports.

“To come in here and qualify 11th as a rookie, the job he’s done all year. He’s been a very pleasant surprise. We knew he was a good racer, but we did not know he was a good qualifier! He’s turned out to be both, and he raced harder than in Indy Lights. He’s doing a very good job.”

Jones is one of three traditional rookies who got their training in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires. He starts 11th while Jack Harvey starts 27th and Zach Veach starts 32nd.

Oh, and about that “other” rookie who rolls off fifth? Jones, like the Honey Badger, doesn’t give a you-know-what about Alonso. He just wants to beat him, same as another competitor on track. After all, Alexander Rossi won as a rookie from 11th on the grid last year.

“It can be annoying. But at the end of the day, I can’t do anything about that.

“If I beat the other rookies – and that includes him – people will notice me more.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.