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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.”

Tequila Patron to end ESM and IMSA partnerships after 2018 season

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Earlier on Monday, Tequila Patron, a long-time sponsor in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, both at the team level – they have a long standing partnership with Tequila Patron ESM – and the series level, announced that they will be ending their sponsorships at the end of the 2018 season.

After sponsoring Highcroft Racing in 2008 and 2009 in the American Le Mans Series, Tequila Patron and ESM formed a partnership in 2010 to launch their own team. Since then, they have scored overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Petit Le Mans. They have also competed internationally, in both Prototype and GT categories.

“On behalf of the entire Extreme Speed Motorsports organization, it has been an honor to represent such an amazing brand for the past 13 years,” said team co-owner Scott Sharp via a team release.

“I have the deepest gratitude for all of (Patron CEO and ESM co-founder) Ed Brown’s support. Together we have tackled various challenges, won races at each step, and built ESM into such an incredible team. Simultaneously, it has been thrilling to watch Ed and his team build the Patrón brand in a meteoric fashion and along the way become an icon in the motorsports world! We will miss not carrying the now infamous green and black livery, but the same passion for excellence will remain!”

IMSA President Scott Atherton also expressed gratitude toward Patron for their long-time involvement.

“IMSA and Patron Spirits have enjoyed a fantastic partnership for more than a decade. Tequila Patron rose through the IMSA ranks, from a high-profile team sponsor with Patron Highcroft Racing beginning in 2008, through its entitlement sponsorship of the Patron GT3 Challenge starting in 2009, and its presenting sponsorship of the American Le Mans Series beginning in 2010,” Atherton detailed.

He continued, “Tequila Patron continued in a prominent position as the American Le Mans Series merged with GRAND-AM to create the new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and has been our entitlement partner for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup since 2014 in addition to its longstanding support of the Tequila Patron ESM race team and its pair of Nissan DPi race cars.

“All associated with IMSA – competitors, promoter partners, series officials and fans – will miss the iconic Tequila Patrón brand next year. On behalf of IMSA, we thank CEO Ed Brown and Tequila Patron for all they have done over the many years to help us grow IMSA and the sport as a whole. We’re more proud than words can express to have counted Tequila Patron among our family of premium brand partners.”

Team co-owner Scott Sharp, in a story posted on SportsCar365, asserted that the ESM team has every intention of continuing in 2019.

“We’re working on a number of options,” Sharp said. “Obviously I think we’ve singly got the best team we’ve ever had, personnel-wise. Having been refining over the years and making selected additions, we’ve gotten ourselves to be super strong. The goal is keeping everyone together. We’re working through a few different options that will hopefully allow us to do that.”

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