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IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Jones

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. Top rookie was Ed Jones, who succeeded despite the lack of competition among freshmen drivers.

Ed Jones, No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: Indy Lights (champion)
  • 2017: 14th place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 8th, 1 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 14.4 Avg. Start, 14.2 Avg. Finish

Rookie Ed Jones had somewhat moderate expectations from the outside going into this season, but the Dubai-based Brit, who resides in Miami, grew up in a big way. He didn’t have another full-time rookie rival and he lost his teammate and setup guide in Sebastien Bourdais at midseason, but excelled anyway as a rock for the Dale Coyne Racing team in a tough year.

Jones had a paradoxical season where his best results came more from luck rather than great driving, and as his driving improved his results subsided. Nonetheless, Jones seized his opportunities when they were there and starred most during the month of May in Indianapolis, cast as the quiet, overlooked rookie in the face of Fernando Alonso-mania.

Finishing third after starting 11th in the Indianapolis 500, in his first ever large oval race in IndyCar, and given the team disparity at Coyne versus Andretti Autosport, was enough to garner some votes for the Speedway’s top rookie honors (including from this author). It turned heads and drew a lot of praise, including from runner-up Helio Castroneves who hailed Jones’ race craft and his ability to drive as well as he did with a wounded race car.

He didn’t finish that high again and owing to the winner-only celebration at Indianapolis, he hasn’t actually stood on an IndyCar podium yet even though he has a top-three finish – similar to JR Hildebrand prior to this year. But he was one of the season’s most pleasant surprises and proved Indy Lights remains an excellent training ground for IndyCar.

His ultimate reward came at season’s end when after Felix Rosenqvist (Formula E contract tie-up) and Brendon Hartley (roundabout reunion with Red Bull, racing for Toro Rosso in F1) fell through as candidates to take over Chip Ganassi’s No. 10 car, Jones earned the seat in a somewhat surprise move.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.