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.