IndyCar

IndyCar: Ed Jones bounces back in big way at Detroit

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Ed Jones has been like a bouncing ball this season.

He started off with an eighth-place finish in the season-opening Verizon IndyCar Series race at St. Petersburg, Florida and a third-place finish two races later at Long Beach.

Then the ball bounced off into foul territory, with disappointing finishes of 20th (Alabama), 22nd (INDYCAR Grand Prix) and 31st (Indy 500), dropping him to 18th in the standings.

But just one weekend saw the Dubai, Arab Emirates resident bounce back in a big way – Saturday and Sunday’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Grand Prix, that is.

Jones finished sixth in Saturday’s Race 1, then roared right back the next day to finish third, his second podium of the season.

That means in the first eight races of the 2018 season, Jones has two podiums and two other top-10 finishes.

And after Detroit and as the series moves on to Texas Motor Speedway for this Saturday night’s race, Jones is suddenly back up to 12th in the standings – with the potential of climbing even higher in the Lone Star State.

To say the driver of the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda is feeling good after his two best career finishes in the Motor City (was 9th and 22nd in last year’s races there) is an understatement.

Not to mention he has already doubled the number of podium finishes this season than he had in his rookie season.

“Things haven’t gone well for us, so it was really important to get the momentum back and have two solid results this weekend,” Jones said. “We worked really hard on it as well and there was a lot of pressure to do that, but the team gave me the car to do it, and I was able to deliver.”

It was a big weekend not just for Jones, but also Chip Ganassi Racing. Teammate Scott Dixon won his first race in nearly a year in Saturday’s Race 1 at Detroit, and finished right behind Jones in fourth place Sunday.

“It was a great job by the team the whole weekend,” Jones said. “Scott winning the race (Saturday) and then me on the podium (Sunday), we’re just aiming to bring the team forward and have some one-twos eventually.”

That has the potential to happen, indeed, particularly at Texas, where Dixon has two wins and seven podium finishes in 18 career starts on the 1.5-mile oval.

Jones finished 17th at Texas as a rookie last season. He feels a much stronger finish could be on tap given his strong Detroit showing.

“Yeah, (Detroit) was a big confidence boost for me,” Jones said, including being able to finish ahead of his teammate Sunday. “I’ve beat him in a few other races but it wasn’t a straight-on fight, it was different strategies and things like that.

“To be able to race him and pass him on track to move forward, yeah, it’s a big thing for me.

“I’ve been trying to learn a lot from Scott, and we’re open to helping each other out. At the end of the day, we both want to drive the team forward and get to winning races.”

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Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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