Ed Jones finished as the leading rookie in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, securing a maiden podium finish for Dale Coyne Racing and ending up fighting for victory with Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves.
He started well from eleventh on the grid but remained calm and composed despite falling to the back of the field after being forced to pit for a new rear wing after hitting debris from Scott Dixon’s crash with Jay Howard that brought out the red flags on lap 52.
“It was a great race for us,” admitted Jones. “It was also the longest race I’ve ever been in, with so many ups-and-downs.
“We had a solid start, but when Dixon had his crash, I ran over some debris and it damaged the floor and rear wing. We had to change the wing, which sent me to the back of the field and then we had to claw our way up again.
“It’s so easy to put a foot wrong, and there were a few times when I genuinely thought I was heading for the wall but thanks to the Dale Coyne Racing team for putting a great car underneath me all month.”
Jones felt that he would have had the car to challenge for the victory had he not had a hole in his front wing that prevented him from having the fastest car in a straight line, although he was able to be amongst the fastest around the corners.
Despite the damage though, he was able to keep fighting, and fell only 0.5278 seconds off the win that was ultimately taken by Sato, with Castroneves second.
“We were really strong in traffic and kept pushing on and making up positions,” said Jones. “We got some luck back with the last yellow as we pitted right before it, but then I put a big hole in my front wing, which created a lot of drag.
“That meant I was really good in the corners catching other cars, but as soon as we got to the straight sections I couldn’t tow up to them – we just lacked that top speed for the last 40 laps and it was very hard for me to defend or attack.
“Over the final 20 laps or so, the racing got much more intense, with people taking a lot more risks. It was pretty crazy out there, but I really enjoyed it. It was just frustrating that we couldn’t get the win because we were really close to it and without the damage, we had the car to do so.
“When you have an opportunity like that, you want to grab it but congratulations to Taku and Hélio. We did everything we could, and to come away with third place as a rookie is an amazing result.”