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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Formula One: Haas fighting for ‘best of the rest’ in Year 3

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The third season for Haas F1 has been its best, even if it’s been a bit bizarre.

Formula One’s only U.S.-based team has scored the most points in its young history and overcome some serious bumbles early to compete with – and beat – some of the legacy team names in F1.

Haas heads into this week’s U.S. Grand Prix in a tough season-ending fight with Renault for the “best of the rest” title among the teams outside of the Big Three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

“It’s the best battle of the field. It’s very tight. It’s going to go to the last lap of the race in Abu Dhabi, while I think the world championship is probably going to go this weekend,” said Haas’ French driver Romain Grosjean, who signed with the team before their first season.

“To rise as quickly as we’ve done hasn’t been seen in Formula One, I don’t think,” said his Danish teammate Kevin Magnussen.

Haas launched with a surprise in 2016 and has been rising ever since.

Haas scored points in its first race in 2016, and in 2017 had both cars finish in the top 10 for the first time at Monte Carlo, the biggest race on the annual calendar. A strong run over the last 10 races of this season has Haas just eight points behind Renault in the race for fourth place with four races left.

The 2018 season looks to finish better than it started.

After Haas scored the team’s best-ever qualifying at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, neither car finished the race. Magnussen and Grosjean both left pit stops on consecutive laps with unsecured wheels and had to stop. The team was fined for sending the cars out in unsafe conditions.

“That was extremely, extremely disappointing” Magnussen said “We are still showing signs of immaturity at certain moments.”

Other problems followed. A month later in Azerbaijan, Grosjean fought his way from the back row into sixth before he drove straight into the wall while following a safety car. Grosjean felt horrible, but blamed one of the season’s most bizarre incidents on an errant flip of a steering wheel switch that he said upset the car’s brake balance and sent him spinning into the barrier.

More valuable points were lost in Italy when the floor of Grosjean’s car was deemed illegal and he was disqualified from sixth place. Haas appealed and is awaiting a decision on points that would close the gap with Renault with a stroke of a pen. Despite the gaffes, Grosjean has finished in the top 10 four times in the last seven races.

“I got eight points stolen in Monza,” Grosjean said. “The results are coming with the kind of performance Haas signed me for in the first place.”

After the problems, Grosjean admitted it was a relief to extend his contract with Haas for 2019. He and Magnussen will be teammates again.

“When I joined, I didn’t know what Haas was going to be. I think they gave me some credit for that when I had a tough time earlier this year and turned things around, Grosjean said.

Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner said he and team owner Gene Haas saw value in staying with drivers who knew the Haas cars.

“Just to change a driver for the same level of skill, you go backward,” Steiner said. “There’s not a lot of better drivers out there, so why should we change them? Stay the same and mature quicker.”

The question now is how high can Haas go?

The Haas business model – which has drawn complaints from its middle-of-the-pack rivals – has it buying parts and engines, most notably from Ferrari. It keeps costs down but creates a performance ceiling that Haas is unlikely to break through.

“We are not developing parts for our car,” Grosjean said. “So far it hasn’t been a problem. If one day we start to beat Ferrari, it’s not going to work.”

Steiner said a top three finish isn’t realistic, not against teams with much bigger budgets, development and staff.

“The first year we didn’t finish last, the second year we didn’t finish last and now we are fighting for fourth. We must be doing something right,” Steiner said. “How do we get to that next step? Where do we go from here? Right now, there is no answer.”

That can be the frustrating part of an otherwise very good season.

A taste of success begs for more. For the 26-year-old Magnussen, he can be good with Haas, maybe even the “best of the rest.” But that’s a career definition no driver wants.

“It’s been six years since I won a race in motorsport,” Magnussen said. “I miss winning. Badly.”