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Four consecutive top 10s have Ed Jones heading in the right direction

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The 2018 IndyCar season started with a lot of promise for Ed Jones, but three failures to finish in the first six races put that all in jeopardy.

The sophomore driver scored a top 10 in his first outing on the street course in St Petersburg, Florida. He was running with the leaders in week two when he crashed on lap 228 of 250 at Ingenuity Sun Media Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway), and then seemed to rebound almost immediately with a third-place finish in the Long Beach Grand Prix.

For the next three races, nothing went right. A 20th at Barber Motorsports Park was the highlight – and that featured a DNF with a misfiring engine.

The Raceway at Belle Isle proved to be his turning point. Jones finished sixth in race one; he was third in the second race.

He has not been outside the top 10 since.

Suddenly, things started to go right again. So well, in fact that even getting boxed in behind a rapidly slowing Will Power on the opening lap of Kohler Grand Prix at Road America could not keep him from keeping his streak of top 10s alive.

Jones lost five positions on the opening lap – dropping from 12th to 17th.

“It was a tough start to the race,” Jones said. “We kind of got sandwiched in when one of the cars ahead had an engine issue, which meant my side of the grid got stacked up and I had nowhere to go.

“That dropped us down the order and cost us a ton of track position which was hard to get back, but the First Data car was really fast and we were able to pass a lot of people over the remaining laps. The team did a good job in the pits, and we’ll keep fighting and moving forward. It’s been a great last few races for Ganassi, and that shows we have the speed we need to win and compete at the front.”

Finishing ninth in the Kohler Grand Prix was the fourth consecutive race in which Jones scored a top 10. It was his sixth such finish in 2018.

In two IndyCar starts on that track, he now has a perfect record of top 10s.

“Road America is one of my favorite tracks on the IndyCar schedule,” Jones said in a press release following the race. “The team was refreshed and ready to attack following a weekend off, and the guys on the First Data car worked hard and made some great changes after we were missing something in practice. I was a lot more confident in qualifying and felt we were going in the right direction. Indeed, without getting held up, I think we would have been capable of advancing into the ‘Firestone Fast Six’.”

Scoring minimal points from week two through week six, Jones dropped from ninth in the points standings to 18th and has been difficult to claw his way back up the grid. With four consecutive top-10s and a lap led at Texas Motor Speedway, Jones has climbed to 12th – 27 markers outside of the top 10.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.