Following another year of change, Jones has plenty to prove

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His journey in the NTT IndyCar Series has translated to three teams in as many years and now an engine change from Honda to Chevrolet.

Although he’s seen a lot in a short time, Ed Jones reminds he’s still young. He just turned 24 last month and the driver from Dubai is convinced his best is yet to come as he joins Ed Carpenter Racing with Scuderia Corsa for 13 of the 17 series races, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Jones’ rollercoaster ride resulted in a 13th-place championship finish with Chip Ganassi Racing last year and, to his surprise, a pink slip. He had his share of strong finishes coupled with several humbling moments, but Jones actually improved in the standings from being Sunoco Rookie of the Year with a 14th-place finish in his 2017 debut with Dale Coyne Racing.

The ECR opportunity in a partnership with Scuderia Corsa will put him in team owner/driver Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet for 12 road- and street-course races. Then he’ll drive his own car, the No. 64 Chevy, in the Indy 500.

Jones doesn’t dwell much on how he didn’t retain his previous ride. He insists he’s still the same driver who opened eyes by collecting the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires title and with a career-best third place in the 2017 Indy 500. He added two more thirds at Long Beach and Detroit last year.

He concedes he has something to prove in 2019.

“Yeah, for sure,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think I drove any differently, but still I had seven races where I finished last basically and we still ended up close to the top 10. I proved in qualifying that, like (reigning champion) Scott (Dixon), I could be up there quite a lot.

“Motivation is the same as usual. I know what I’m capable of. I’m still one of the youngest drivers in INDYCAR. At my age range, I’ve probably had the most podiums and success so far, so I’m looking forward to continuing that.”

He’s genuinely grateful to have the opportunity to return. Whatever dismay he experienced when receiving the news from Ganassi has been replaced by the excitement of joining ECR.

“It’s great to be back and part of Ed Carpenter Racing and Scuderia Corsa,” he said. “Ed Carpenter has had a lot of success in the past and experience and it’s great to have Scuderia Corsa joining the INDYCAR paddock on a greater (level) compared to last year. This is just a starting step of more to come from them. They’ve also had a lot of success in sports cars. It’s great having both sides put together.

“Of course, (2018) wasn’t the best of years. I think we had seven races where we pretty much finished last with DNFs, either the engine broke down, (tire) punctures or a couple of crashes as well. Frustrating, but I showed I think I was close to halfway being side-by-side with Scott (Dixon) in qualifying performances. That was a good, positive takeaway.

“I’ve had two teammates now (Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais) who have been previous champions. This is the first year I’ll be on a team with teammates who have similar experience to me. It will be interesting to see how we get on. I’ve learned a lot.”

Jones joins Spencer Pigot, who returns for his second full season at ECR after driving Carpenter’s car on road and street courses for two years. The switch to driving a Chevrolet is an adjustment, but Jones is confident he’s surrounded by a team that will help him get up to speed.

“Changing teams four years in a row (counting) Indy Lights, it’s always tough to do that,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be on great teams and had great relationships with the people I’ve been around.

“It didn’t take too long to get used to (driving a Chevrolet). Clearly, Chevy has been really strong the last few years, the Indy 500 especially. I think I’m in a very fortunate position with the package I have with Carpenter and Chevy together.”

Jones finished 21st out of 25 cars in last month’s INDYCAR Spring Training at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

Although almost all of his starts are scheduled to be on road and street courses, he suggests there could be more oval opportunities depending upon how the season unfolds. He’s particularly looking forward to driving in his third Indy 500, considering ECR has a history of running quick cars in the race. His boss won his third pole at IMS and finished a career-best second in last year’s Indy 500.

“There’s nothing really that scares a modern-day driver when you’re racing on a road course anymore, whereas on an oval, you still question like, ‘What am I doing?’ sometimes,” Jones said. “If things go well, there could be a scenario where things change. I know Scuderia have said they want to get more involved. I guess we’ll just have to see.

“Carpenter has always been super quick at Indy, especially qualifying. Of course, it’s an extremely long race and anything can change, but … Ed has got huge experience on ovals as well and I can learn from that like every other driver I’ve been a teammate with.”

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season opens with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10. Tickets are available at gpstpete.com. The race airs live on NBCSN (12:30 p.m. ET) and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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