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Ed Jones keen to bounce back at Road America after Indy heartbreak

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He still leads the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship by 29 points heading into this week’s races at Road America, but make no mistake: this is a pivotal weekend for Ed Jones of Carlin.

The Dubai-based Englishman will look to add his first Road America win to the two he’s achieved already this season at Barber Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, two other permanent road circuits.

Jones, who’s lost 17 points to Dean Stoneman in the last two races, will need to correct course on that to avoid losing the early season grasp he has on the Indy Lights points lead, on the road to securing the $1 million Mazda advancement scholarship for winning the top step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. The Indy Lights champion moves up to the Verizon IndyCar Series next season and is guaranteed at least three races, including the Indianapolis 500.

The driver of the No. 11 Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels Dallara IL-15 Mazda is also going to need to rebound after the cruelest of defeats – by an IMS oval record 0.0024 of a second to Stoneman in last month’s Freedom 100, the most recent Indy Lights race.

“It was my fault,” Jones said immediately after the race. “I feel like if I had gone outside, maybe I would have held a little more momentum and maybe would have been able to hold him off. But unfortunately I made the wrong call and that’s what cost us. It’s straining, especially since the team gave me a car to win the race, we were battling at the front the whole time, and to lose it by such a small margin is a case where I can’t think of things much worse.”

Jones attempted to analyze the moments leading up to that last lap, in the one-lap dash for home when he restarted third, got into first by Turn 1 but then came out the wrong side of the side-by-side bout with Stoneman at the line.

“I didn’t realize I was so close with Dean and I had a bit of a moment in the last corner as well, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to touch him on the outside. I was a bit occupied,” Jones laughed.

“The car got a little bit loose mid to exit. I was kind of expecting to hit him, but fortunately I didn’t. I wasn’t sure if I had enough room. I could see I was gaining on him.

“Throughout this weekend we had a really weird thing with the gears. Our fifth and sixth are so close together and it’s always hard to decide which one to be in. I chose sixth maybe a hundred meters off the last corner. I was coming and coming, but just not enough.”

Perhaps the only solace – if any – Jones could take away from the loss there was that the Freedom 100 hasn’t been a harbinger of title success.

In the last five years, the only two drivers who’ve won the Freedom 100 and the title in the same year were Josef Newgarden (2011) and Gabby Chaves (2014). Both are now full-time regulars in IndyCar. Additionally, 2012, 2013 and 2015 Freedom 100 winners Esteban Guerrieri, Peter Dempsey and Jack Harvey have not started an IndyCar race.

For Jones, he’s still able to think big picture going into this weekend.

“It’s going to take me a few days to get over that, but yeah throughout the race I saw other guys drop off and those were the two guys behind me in the championship (Santiago Urrutia and Kyle Kaiser). Obviously Dean is up there as well now.

“I thought, I was trying for the win, but I wasn’t going to take too many unnecessary risks because of how things fell on that last lap after the safety car. I actually got a good run and I took the lead.

“We have to think of the big picture and I did for a little bit under the safety car period. I’ll probably be thankful I didn’t throw it off.”

Jones has tested at Road America before and as he makes his track race debut there this weekend, should be well poised and determined to get back to his winning ways from earlier this year.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.