By Kirby Arnold, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – It’s been a good month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Ed Jones. What the 26-year-old driver needs now is a strong weekend.
Jones will start 11th Sunday in the Indianapolis 500 in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan. He’s back with the team he drove for his rookie year in 2017 when he finished third in the 500, although familiarity hasn’t so far translated into great results this year.
Jones hasn’t cracked the top 10 in five races, beset with any number of race-weekend issues that left the team “on the back foot,” as Jones describes it, come race time.
“To be honest, I’ve been pretty confident from the beginning,” he said. “There have been so many issues which have gone on throughout the weekend in all the practice sessions, it really can lose your weekend.”
He finished 15th in the season opener at Barber Motorsports Park, 20th at St. Petersburg, 12th in the first race at Texas and 22nd in the second, then 14th in the Indy Grand Prix on the IMS road course two weeks ago.
“There were certain weekends where we didn’t have everything working on the car up until the (pre-race) warmup,” he said. “You’re so far on the back foot then that it’s really hard to recover the weekend. It’s just about having clean weekends, and to be honest we haven’t had one of those this year so far. I’m hoping this will be the first one.”
Jones is starting in the first third of the field Sunday, and if he can pull off a repeat of his rookie run in the 500, that will go a long way toward salvaging the season. He knows what it’s like to run up front at Indy, running among the leaders in 2017 before finishing third.
He’s aiming for much more than third place this time.
“It would be nice get some good points but at the end of the day you don’t just want to settle for that, especially at this race,” Jones said. “If you’re running second at the end of this race, you’re willing to throw it all away to win it. All you want to do is win this race. If you’re within a chance, you’ve got to do everything you can. If it means you throw everything away because you’re going for it, that’s just the way Indy is and why it’s so important to win this race.”