Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Ed Jones has stated that, after qualifying a lowly twenty-ninth for this weekend’s 2018 Indianapolis 500, he is “determined” to carve through the field to take a solid race result. The Dubai-born British driver showed pace throughout the week of practice, only for a mistake on his run in the second day of qualifying on Sunday to relegate him to the penultimate row of the grid.
A quiet but successful week of practice allowed Jones and the crew of his #10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to complete a large number of laps and collect a lot of data for the race. Ed completed a total of 263 laps in the four days of practice before qualifying.
“We spent a lot of time focussing on the balance of the car – that was the main thing,” Jones said, “There are so many variables to try to make it fast, and we went through a lot of tweaks – every day, we learnt something new and we improved the No.10 NTT Data car each time.
“The crew did a fantastic job working on the car and going back and forth to the garage with all the changes we made.”
Heading into last weekend, Jones and Chip Ganassi Racing were confident, but a struggle to find the right setup with the increased speed boost made Saturday’s qualifying session a slightly nervous affair, to begin with. However, they need not have worried. Jones would set the thirteenth fastest qualifying run of the day, with an average speed of 226.995-mph. It was not a spot in the “Fast Nine”, like his team-mate Scott Dixon had achieved, but it was enough for Jones to be pleased with the day’s running:
“The guys did a great job with the NTT Data car,” Jones said regarding Saturday’s session, “We struggled a bit on Friday trying to find qualifying pace, and ran about fifty laps alone on qualifying set-ups. It’s great to be with this Ganassi team because they constantly work at it and push to find speed.
“I think we got a little unlucky with the sun coming out during our run. That definitely hurt our pace a bit, but considering our difficulties on Fast Friday, I had to be happy with thirteenth.”
Ed’s positive mood did not carry over from Saturday to Sunday. The second day of qualifying saw the cars that were in positions ten to thirty-three fight it out again to decide who would occupy those positions on race day. With Jones thirteenth fastest on Saturday, he was hoping to be able to pull off another strong run to start as high up the order as possible.
However, that was not to be. Jones had a reasonable start to his qualifying run. His first two laps looked reasonable enough, but he suffered a slight moment of understeer on turn one of his third lap. He was forced to get out of the throttle, costing him speed throughout the rest of the lap and subsequently the rest of the run.
Jones would end the session all the way down in twenty-ninth place and would be left frustrated with a grid position that did not indicate the true pace of his car. However, he would go on to say that he was hopeful of a good race as he felt his car was very good in race trim. He also has his fantastic third place finish in last year’s Indy 500 in his memory, providing him with some useful experience that he can utilize in his sophomore season.
“I went into Turn One and just lost the front of the car,” Jones admitted, “I was heading for the wall on the exit so had to lift, which destroyed my momentum. That lap really hurt my average and it was very disappointing to have that happen, especially after having a solid car on Saturday.
“I felt so bad letting the team down, but we have a good race car that drafts up very well to the other cars – maybe even better than the one I had last year – and we’re determined to work our way to the front.”
Jones does not have long to wait until he can begin his potential drive through the field. “Carb Day” final practice will take place on Friday, with the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 taking place on Sunday, May 27.