SONOMA, California – When the Verizon IndyCar Series gathered for its season-ending race at Sonoma Raceway last month, Ed Jones didn’t officially know if he was soon to be out of his ride at Chip Ganassi Racing. However, he figured it was a distinct possibility because Chip Ganassi hadn’t exercised the team’s option.
Amid the uncertainty, the 23-year-old 2017 INDYCAR Rookie of the Year stood in the shade of his No. 10 Honda transporter and methodically laid out his case for a second season as Scott Dixon’s teammate.
Finishing 13th in series points, with two podiums and one lap led in 17 races did not figure to make his case very well, and it obviously didn’t as Ganassi has since replaced him with Felix Rosenqvist.
But Jones felt he had a case then, and it’s now imperative to keep beating his drum to other team owners if he is to have a third season in the series.
Jones described his 2018 season as “very tough” and a departure from “how I expected or planned.” Progress was measurable but minute as he scored two podiums - tying his career-best finish by placing third at Long Beach and Belle Isle and ticking slightly better in (13.1) and finish (13.2) as compared to 2017. Still, not good enough.
“I think if I look at it just as results, it’s been pretty horrendous, but when I actually look at the facts and break down what I’ve actually done, it’s a lot better than it looks,” Jones told IndyCar.com. “I’ve been really unfortunate in so many cases. I had three races where I had (tire) punctures, lost top-six finishes through that. (I had) two races where I had engine failures, lost, again, another probably two top-10s from that.
“And then I crashed running second in the Indy 500. So, I think it’s easy to say there were six or seven races where I (didn’t) score points and a lot of it has been out of our control. I made a few mistakes as well but, yeah, it’s frustrating.”
More so, he said, because he believes many of the problems that befell him were not of his doing.
“Anyone who knows me well, I’m the first person to blame myself for everything and I don’t want to have excuses for anything. I hate that,” he said. “For me, that is the worst thing I can have. It’s just frustrating when it comes to that point. I would rather that I made a mistake, that I could have fixed something. But when you come down to scenarios like when you can’t do anything about it, it makes it even more annoying.”
Jones, the 2016 Indy Lights champion, has twice had the benefit -- and unforgiving weekly comparison -- of racing as a teammate of a multi-time series champions in his INDYCAR career. Jones was paired with four-time champion Sebastien Bourdais at Dale Coyne Racing in 2017.
“Of course,” he said when asked if measuring up to such a teammate is difficult. “I think for my first two years of INDYCAR, I’ve had pretty good teammates to work against. Of course, it always difficult, but it’s where you want to be.”
Dixon acknowledged that Jones had “had some misfortunes throughout” the season, including being taken out on a crash at Portland in the second turn. Dixon, also involved in that multi-car melee, rallied to finish fifth and perpetuate his title chase, while Jones’ car was too damaged to continue.
Jones said he was pleased with his qualifying as compared to Dixon – whose starting average was 7.6 – and underscored a collection of races where he compared favorably to the now-five-time champion.
“At (Belle Isle) we were on the same strategy, same everything and I was able to outpace him, overtake him and drive away from him,” Jones said of the second race in the doubleheader in which Dixon finished fourth. “So, there’s been points in the year where I’ve been able to do that. Of course, it would be over-estimating things to think I could do that over the course of the entire year.
“Of course, it’s been very difficult, but I think if I had another shot at it next year, I think I could really be up there with Scott and that’s what I want to be able to prove.”
But that isn’t happening. Rosenqvist won two Formula E races and produced three pole positions last season, finishing sixth in points. He has made his case to the Ganassi team.
And now it’s up to Jones to lay that case out to someone else.