By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
PORTLAND, Oregon — With speculation about 2019 becoming more and more frequent by the day, Chip Ganassi Racing driver Ed Jones managed to shut all of that off to qualify in eighth position for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland – the penultimate race in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Jones went around the 1.964-mile road course with a quick time of 57.6499 seconds to average 122.644 mph. Teammate and points leader Scott Dixon went around in 57.8554 seconds to qualify 11th fastest.
Jones has been the victim of intense scrutiny looking ahead to 2019. Rumors have placed other drivers in the seat he currently occupies but a strong qualifying effort can help him find a good result for tomorrow.
“Yeah, obviously out-qualifying Scott is always good but it wasn’t an ideal run for us,” said Jones. “I had to back out and that I think cost me progressing. I think I had the speed then. It’s a bit frustrating but we’ve got some work to do tomorrow, it’s quite hard to overtake here so the first stop’s going to be important and it’ll be interesting with tire degradation how things work out.”
Jones was fastest in his group of qualifying in round one, setting a new track record of 57.5698 seconds which was eclipsed 10 minutes later by eventual pole sitter Will Power.
“The first session was good but I wasn’t happy with the second one,” said Jones, the 2016 Indy Lights champion. “I’m pretty frustrated, I think we should be in the Fast Six. We had a good chance, guess we missed it by quite a bit there and that cost us but I know I’m more than fast enough to be at the front, it’s just a matter of getting the car working for me and putting everything together.”
Jones ran as high as third place at the last race at Gateway before finishing eighth. With another good result, it could help the 2017 IndyCar Rookie of the Year’s chances at getting a full-time ride next year assuming his seat at Chip Ganassi Racing is under threat. The pressure, however, hasn’t gotten to Jones.
“It doesn’t make any difference to me, I drive the same as I always drive,” said Jones. “There’s always going to be speculation no matter what happens. For me, I’m convinced I know how good I am and I think most team owners know that and I’m sure I’m going to have the opportunity to win races next year.”
The Grand Prix of Portland broadcast begins on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET.