Long Beach Race Review: Jones-ing Racing

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Photo from twitter.com

IndyCar rookie Ed Jones is stunning the racing world with an unprecedented career start.

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Photo from twitter.com

Sure, comedic Canadian James Hinchcliffe won his fifth career race and second for Sam Schmidt. And yes, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais finished second and leads the points after two races. Josef Newgarden scored a podium in only his second race for Penske coming home in third, while our pick Dixie finished a disappointing fourth. It’s also true that Frenchman Simon Pagenaud raced from last to fifth after receiving a penalty in qualifications. But none of that’s really the point.

Rookie Ed Jones turned in the drive of the race, moving up seven positions to finish sixth and making the top ten for the second consecutive outing. It was only his second IndyCar race and after a tremendous beginning the youngster now sits seventh in points.
The 2016 Indy Lights champ not only drives for Dale Coyne Racing, making his accomplishments that much more special, but also is off to an astounding start to his IndyCar career.

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Photo from indycar.com

Born in Dubai, UAE Jones is basically a British kid born abroad pre-Brexit. At only 22 years old, he’s off to a start like no other. Comparisons are already being made to Nigel Mansell – “the worst” teammate Mario Andretti ever had – but of course Mansell had a long F1 career before ever dipping his toe into IndyCar’s pool. Jones is a true rookie, although he doesn’t look like one at all.

There’s so much to like about the Boy Scouts pilot. His accent. His attitude. His aptitude. It could be said that Ed’s got the three A’s – and those are the making of an IndyCar star.

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Photo from indycar.com

The race entailed 85 laps as opposed to 80 last year. Since fuel economy isn’t racing, it’s high time to shorten the race significantly, to about sixty laps. It was exciting right up until the end, when the passing dried up like a raisin in the SoCal sun. Hinch led the final twenty two laps to the checkers, but even a lackluster finish to the race couldn’t diminish its entertainment value with passing and action galore. Or the rookie from the Middle East’s remarkable accomplishment.

There were a total of three cautions for eleven excruciating laps and they began early as Charlie “pinball” Kimball tangled with a competitor yet again, this time Will “sour grapes” Power on the opening lap. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. The other yellows were courtesy of Andretti Autosport, who saw Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi and Marco both stop on track. In fact, none of AA’s four Honda powered cars finished the race. Michael’s look of anguish on the pit stand summed up the team’s day at the beach brilliantly.

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Photo from twitter.com

Other than a couple of brief black outs due to camera issues during the broadcast, NBCSN’s coverage was quality. Although Paul Tracy does need to learn how to pronounce asphalt properly.

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Dixon was visibly upset afterwards, publicly calling his team’s three stop strategy into question. “I haven’t spoken to the team yet,” he demurred curtly in a post race interview. “We gave the race away at that point.” Apparently sanctioning Russians remains in vogue, as Mikhail Aleshin received a couple of them during the race, as did Helio. Somehow race control managed to stay awake and alert for the entire race this year.

In the short term, Long Beach will be remembered as the site of Hinch’s fifth triumph. But in the longer view, it may well be remembered for a rookie’s amazing performance on a second tier team.

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