Ed Jones Racing

Strong Phoenix test, driving for Chip Ganassi, has Ed Jones eager for IndyCar season to begin

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Ed Jones hasn’t just climbed the ladder of success in Indy car racing the last three seasons, he’s been on a high-speed elevator to potential stardom.

He finished third in his first Indy Lights season in 2015, won the series’ championship in 2016, and then was named INDYCAR rookie of the year in 2017 with Dale Coyne Racing (helped greatly by a season-high, third-place finish in the Indianapolis 500), his first season in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

That elevator ride has now reached one of the top teams in the sport, Chip Ganassi Racing. And Jones wants to keep riding upward and forward with arguably the best ride of his overall racing career.

Photo courtesy IndyCar

Jones, who turned 23 on Monday, got off to a good start with his new team in last week’s open IndyCar test at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway).

The Dubai-born British citizen said the test was both “extremely positive” as well as had the team “heading in the right direction,” particularly with IndyCar’s new aero package for 2018, he said in a media release.

Jones said he likes the new bold of the IndyCar chassis, especially that it has significantly less downforce than last year’s car and puts control of the car more in a driver’s hands, an aspect he calls refreshing.

Jones has already had two tests with the new 720-horsepower Dallara-Honda car. First was last month at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

And then there was the major test last week in Phoenix, one that bodes well with promise for the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 11.

Jones logged a total of 12 hours on-track in the No. 10 NTT Data ride during both day and night conditions, running a total of 283 laps around the 1.022-mile low-banked oval.

He was as high as seventh on the overall speed charts before ending the test with the 12th-fastest average speed of 187.696 mph, less than one-tenth of a second behind four-time IndyCar champ and CGR teammate Scott Dixon.

It was good preparation for the second race of the season on April 7 at the same track.

Jones has one more test coming up late this month, back at Sebring, before the season kicks off on the temporary street course in St. Petersburg.

“The test went really well,” Jones said of Phoenix. “It was my first time running with the new aero kit on an oval, so there was a certain degree of adapting to do as we worked on finding the best set-up for the car, but we logged a lot of very solid laps and by the second day I felt much more comfortable and able to attack more.

“The new package is very different to last year, when we were pretty much flat the whole way round the lap on ovals. Now, due to the reduction in downforce, there is more lifting involved, which makes it more difficult to hold onto the tires over longer stints. That will introduce more of a technical and tactical element into the driving, which I think will suit me well.

“We made a lot of changes over the two days and learned and improved a great deal. Although we still have more pace to find and plenty to pick up in a short space of time, we’re heading in the right direction and I believe we left Phoenix in a much stronger position than when we arrived, both in terms of single-lap speed and race simulations, which is all extremely positive.”

And he hopes to keep that positive feeling going when things are for real, starting at St. Pete.

“I am confident we can be competitive from the outset at St. Petersburg,” Jones said. “I’m really looking forward to the season.

“I feel completely at home inside the team and while I’m under no illusions that it’s going to be tough – because the level in IndyCar is sky-high right now – I have a great opportunity with Ganassi this year and I fully intend to make the most of it.”

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).