Ed Jones was good enough as an IndyCar rookie to earn an immediate promotion to one of the top teams in racing. When it didn't work out, his career in the American open wheel series came to a sudden end.
Jones got a second chance Wednesday when Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan signed him to return to the program where he started in 2017. Jones was the IndyCar rookie of the year that season and finished third in the Indianapolis 500.
He was lured to Chip Ganassi Racing the next year for one disappointing season, spent 2019 in a partial schedule with Ed Carpenter Racing, then found himself out of the series and out of a job in 2020.
“We’re very happy to have him back,” Coyne said. “I told Ed when we were talking about all this, we both have unfinished business. We’re very much looking forward to a competitive year.”
Jones drove the No. 19 for Coyne as a rookie in 2017, the year after he won the Indy Lights championship. This time, he will drive the No. 18 Honda that is run in partnership with Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan and sponsored for a fourth consecutive season by SealMaster Pavement Products.
“Watching Ed while we were around a bit in ’17, then competing against him the following two years... I fully expect him to jump in and find his pace pretty much immediately,” Vasser said. “There’s no concerns on my end it’s going to take him any time to get back up to speed.”
Jones replaces Santino Ferrucci, who announced a move to NASCAR in the second-tier Xfinity Series when he could not complete an IndyCar deal for 2021.
Coyne actually had two seats to fill because Alex Palou moved to Ganassi after last year's rookie season in the No. 19. The team owner said he will announce the new driver for that seat next week and its widely speculated it will be Romain Grosjean, who is out of a job in Formula One.
Losing young talent to Ganassi doesn't bother Coyne, especially now that Jones is coming back.
“We lost Ed to Ganassi, last year we lost Alex to Ganassi, that’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing,” Coyne said. "People come to our team and want to prove themselves. Obviously everybody wants to drive for Penske or Ganassi. If they can do a nice job with us and move up, that’s good for us.
“We understood what he did, why he did it. It’s business. Here we are, back together again.”
A British citizen born in Dubai who currently lives in Miami, Jones was sidelined all of 2020 because of COVID-19 travel restrictions and readjusted budgets ended his shot at racing touring cars across Europe.
He said Wednesday that he spent the year taking online courses in artificial intelligence and digital business management through MIT.
“It was just something I wanted to do to keep myself busy and learn something new. Probably not what other drivers did,” said Jones, who studied how businesses and companies use AI to take advantage of big data.
“One thing with the data, it’s something you can use in motorsport, maybe not from a driver perspective, but with data on handling how you use testing the car and things like that," he said. "Through simulation, as well. It’s something which can be beneficial in the future, and something which maybe isn’t really important for me now, but something I could use in times to come.”
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