Ed Jones

He showed a lot of promise in his rookie year, but Ed Jones learned a valuable lesson from his 2017 initiation in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

When a driver experiences success, as he did in earning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award with Dale Coyne Racing, it’s imperative to push even harder. Jones considers that even more of a must since being hired in the offseason by Chip Ganassi Racing.

“I’ve already been told what to expect,” Jones said with a smile about driving for the successful Ganassi, whose drivers have won 11 Indy car championships and four Indianapolis 500s. “Even if you win the race hands down, there’s always what could I have done better? That’s good, the best way to be about it.

“From what I’ve experienced a little bit, as soon as you have success especially early in the season when things go right, it’s easy to relax. That’s the last thing you (can) do. Especially when you have a great result at the start of a season, you’ve got to push even harder and keep working harder. In this sport and any sport, it’s easy to relax and take your foot off.”

Jones, 23, from Dubai, was quick at the start of 2017 with top-10 finishes in his first two starts. He then enjoyed his best result by finishing third in the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. That he had just two top-10 results after that reinforced the importance of always pushing.

“It was my rookie year and I knew it was going to be tough, but at the same time, I’ve always believed in my ability,” he said. “If you want to be successful, you’ve got to believe in yourself. There’s always going to be doubts in certain areas. Same with this year, if things come together the right way, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be winning races and on the podium.

“Obviously I was extremely pleased (with the Indy 500). It was the biggest result of my career so far. At the same time, I was a bit disappointed. On one side, it’s a strength of mine. Also, it’s a weakness because I’m never content. You always want more. That’s always been the way I’ve looked at things, the way I’ve tried to push myself and try to be better every time.”

Jones’ No. 10 NTT Data Honda ranked 12th out of 23 cars in the recent open test at ISM Raceway near Phoenix on Feb. 9-10. It was the only gathering of all regular-season cars prior to the 2018 opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11.

“I felt like we were pretty strong, one of the stronger cars out there,” Jones said. “All good. We just need to make a few more steps for the race weekend.

“It’s really important, especially when testing is so limited. We have only one more day of (private team) testing before St. Pete.”

Jones finished 10th in his series debut at St. Pete last year. He followed that up with a sixth place in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“I’m really happy,” he said in Phoenix. “At the end of the day, there’s always going to be pressure, no matter what team you’re with or position you’re in. In a way, I’ve always been working throughout my racing career to be in a position like this now with one of the top teams.

“Although there’s pressure, it’s the right kind of pressure. I want it. It’s what I’ve always worked for. I have the resources around me and everything there that I need to be successful. Now it’s down to me.”

Don’t read too much into that smile, though. When Jones is at the racetrack, his facial expression is almost always as serious as it can be.

“In season, you’ve got to keep the same emotions no matter what happens,” he said. “It’s easy for people to judge what you’re thinking.

“The pressure, it is still there. There are certain things where you’ve got to be fearless, especially with what we do. There are still a lot of things at stake. I’ve prepared as hard as I can for this season, just like I do with every season. I feel like I’m in a position where there’s a lot more knowledge now and a lot more things around me which help me do that. I feel like I can perform at my best. There’s an opportunity to be winning races now.”

In teaming now with Scott Dixon, Jones considers himself fortunate to have the experience of driving with two teammates who are four-time Indy car champions. His Dale Coyne teammate last season was Sebastien Bourdais.

Jones now sets his sights on winning his first Verizon IndyCar Series race. And then working even harder to contend for a series championship. He finished 14th in the points last year.

“Obviously that’s what I want to happen, that’s what I’m pushing towards. We’ll see how things go,” he said. “I need to win races. That’s what I’m after.

“It’s a big jump up. Although you might think now that I’m with Ganassi, it’s going to be easy, that’s completely wrong. I have to work just as hard if not harder to make sure I’m successful there and I’m able to stay there. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”