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.