Failing To See The Wonder

This may turn a few people off. I don’t seek out controversy and I swear I’m not trying to do it here, but this is one time that my initial opinion is not in line with the vast majority of race fans. I will probably be proven wrong on this next season, and if I am – I’ll gladly swallow crow.

The topic? I think fans might want to pump the brakes just a little bit, to temper their excitement over Ed Jones being signed by Ganassi to fill the seat in the No.10 car; formerly occupied by the likes of Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti and most recently, Tony Kanaan. Some of you will agree with me in silence, while others will strongly disagree – but hear me out.

There was a not-so-small outrage this past May, when Fernando Alonso was chosen Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year over Ed Jones. The outcry even reached the point where fans on social media were calling out voters from the media and demanding to know how they voted. For the record, I did not have a vote but I know a few who did.

But, also for the record – if I had a vote, I would have voted for Alonso.

What people forget about when discussing (arguing) Indianapolis Rookie of the Year, is that it is a subjective vote – meaning it is based more on opinion or gut feeling than on facts or measured results. Had it been an objective vote, as is the IndyCar season Rookie of the Year – Jones would have won it based on results because Jones finished third and Alonso wound up twenty-fourth. But when you look at practice, qualifying and the fact that Alonso had never driven these cars before, had never raced on an oval in his life, ran near the front most of the day and led twenty-seven laps compared to zero laps led by Jones – I would’ve given the nod to Alonso.

But the outcry in the support for Jones was loud and vicious – at least for the following week. Were these Formula One haters that would’ve pulled for Marty Roth or Dr. Jack Miller over any F1 driver, or were these rational people that honestly felt that Jones got screwed? It was probably a combination of both.

Whatever the case, Ed Jones was suddenly on everyone’s radar. Keep in mind that in the five races prior to the Indianapolis 500, Jones had four rather forgettable drives and one sixth place finish at Long Beach. His other four finishes were tenth, sixteenth, eleventh and nineteenth. Other than the nineteenth at the GP of Indianapolis, none of those were disastrous runs, but they didn’t really turn heads either. For the remaining races of the season after the “500”, Jones had two Top-Ten finishes – one, a ninth place finish the following Saturday in the first race at Belle Isle; giving more ammunition to those that claimed that Jones should have won Rookie of the Year. After that, his only other Top-Ten was a seventh at Road America.

A seventeen race season that produced four Top-Ten finishes and eight finishes of fifteenth or worse; led to a fourteenth place finish in points among seventeen drivers that started all seventeen races. In the five races prior to his third-place finish in the Indianapolis 500, Jones’ average finish was 12.4. In the eleven races following the “500”, Jones had an average finish of 16.0. After the seventh place finish at Road America, which was just past the halfway point of the season, Jones had consecutive finishes of eighteenth, twentieth, twenty-first, seventeenth, thirteenth, thirteenth and nineteenth. What am I missing? I’m failing to see the wonder here.

Yet there was a large faction of IndyCar fans that claimed that Ed Jones was the second-coming of Michael Andretti. He was everyone’s darling and I could not ever understand why. Granted, these results were in a Dale Coyne car. But let’s not forget that a Dale Coyne car won the first race of the season and was arguably the fastest car during the Month of May, before the terrible accident that sidelined teammate Sébastien Bourdais for most of the remainder of the season. I don’t know this, but I suspect that at least one of those Top-Ten finishes for Jones was due to the superb pit strategy that Dale Coyne is known for, rather than Jones’ driving ability.

Jones had a superb career in Indy Lights for Carlin Motorsport. In two seasons, Jones won five races and the 2016 Indy Lights championship before stepping up to the Verizon IndyCar Series with Dale Coyne Racing. He won Rookie of the Year for the season, but he was the only rookie to start all of the races so there was never much doubt about that outcome.

But somehow the twenty-two year Jones became a phenomenon in the minds of fans and the media alike – essentially off of the results of one race and one vote that went the way some didn’t care for. It’s like he became the symbol for a bigger cause.

Before everyone gets bent out of shape and think I have some personal vendetta against Ed Jones – I don’t. He may become the star that everyone is predicting he will at Chip Ganassi Racing. Personally, I hope he does. His new teammate, Scott Dixon, will inevitably retire one day. At his current age of thirty-seven, that day will come probably sooner than later. Ganassi and the series will need a seasoned talented veteran to carry the torch for all the drivers in the future who won’t be driving for Team Penske. Ed Jones is as likely to be that driver as anyone.

But the reaction that his signing generated a couple of weeks ago has bordered on being ridiculous. Some are touting him as Ganassi’s answer to Penske’s Josef Newgarden. Seriously? Newgarden had three wins to his credit and five full seasons before jumping to the best team in the business.

Plus, let’s not get overly excited about the No.10 team. That’s a car that has won a total of two races since 2011. As of late, Chip Ganassi Racing has been Scott Dixon and everyone else. Even though they are scaling back to only two cars for 2018, I don’t see that changing. If you think Ganassi will take away any resources away from Dixon’s team in order to help his new second-year driver, you’re kidding yourself.

So we’ll see how things turn out for Ed Jones at Ganassi in 2018 and beyond. I hope I’m proven wrong and if I am, I’ll be the first to gladly acknowledge it. Jones has already won over the hearts and minds of fans and many in the media, over a perceived shafting by some voters last May. I just want to see the results on the track, before I jump on the Ed Jones bandwagon.

George Phillips

12 Responses to “Failing To See The Wonder”

  1. Could not agree with you more George.
    Jones was essentially invisible this past season.

  2. I agree outside of Indy he did not have a great season. But Indy ROY is fsolely on what happens there. I felt his race earned him a share of the award. I didn’t think he deserved it outright. The signing with Ganassibwas a huge surprise. Wonder if Chip is being proactive to keep him away from Penske down the road.

  3. I can agree with some and disagree with some of your points here.

    First, Jones is only in the series because Carlin played games in 2016 and they should be ashamed.

    I like him and I am certainly glad Tony Kanaan won’t be taking up a good ride for another year, ad nauseam. But, the media darling crap gets old. Same with Daly who has been invisible as well after he finally got a full-time ride that we had to hear about him deserving for so long. On the other side though, I am sick of Helio, Kanaan, etc. They are wasting space, so this is good to see what a youngster can do. He could be the next Dixon, he could be the next Minassian.

    Sadly some people just back into good things and some others are left out. A lot of drivers will sign with a lesser team instead of waiting to see what happens in the winter, can’t blame them…. We have seen it on the NASCAR side with Alex Bowman getting the old Dale Earnhardt Jr ride next year out of nowhere…

  4. Ganassi 2nd car needs to re-establish what it once was. In my opinion, the over hype with the driver matches the car/team. Time will tell.

  5. Yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery. Pretty much all you need to know about the Jones kid and what next season might bring. In the meantime I would like to see him run the Chili Bowl.

  6. Bruce Waine Says:

    Credibility tested over the years of being bombarded by glitzy headlines educates knowledgeable readers (or should at least educate readers) to read more than between the lines.

    History has a way of repeating itself. No different are the headlines during a motorsports silly season. Particularly when one reflects on the history of a particular team or team’s apparent rotating door $econd $eat.

    The headline grabber glitz is there at the beginning pumped out by the media PR; but then that same media hype oftentimes must be dusted off as the racing season progresses when reality proves otherwise……………….

    “Ganassi pounces when it learned Ed Jones was available to join Indy Car team.” – One headline alerted the public.

    Speak to Dale Coyne and he has another interpretation of this headline since news media reported that Dale had a “Handshake” agreement with Jones to drive for Dale Coyne Racing in 2018…………

    No need to run the 2018 INDYCar season according to this accurate headline…….

    “Ganassi makes Championship winning move in signing Ed Jones for 2018 INDY Car.”

    So let the 2019 INDYCar Racing season begin………………

  7. I like Ed Jones but the reason for my excitement was more about seeing the 10 car go to someone I know already in IndyCar. Since I don’t follow other forms of racing I could care less about hiring drivers outside of IndyCar. I imagine Ed will struggle at Ganassi but hopefully will be given time to show what he can do. —Patti

  8. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    One issue I think that will help the 10 car is the loss of the 83 car if I understand Kimball’s current situation being not with Ganassi for ’18. Resources spread too thin over 4 cars (albeit still less than Target’s $$$) will now be dedicated to 2 cars, much as they were back in their prime contending years.

  9. billytheskink Says:

    I think a lot of the excitement is rooted in Jones’ success in Lights, the opportunity to see a ladder series guy get a big break, and the first chance in a long time to see a very new, very young face in a premier ride (or what we still regard as a premier ride). I think too the fact that Ganassi hired him without him bringing the car’s budget (by all appearances) has a lot of folks seeing in Ed what they believe Chip sees in Ed.

    But it should be remembered, Jones was not Ganassi’s first choice. We all but know Brendan Hartley was. Was he Chip’s second choice? At the time he was hired, probably so. However, he may not have been had the Hartley deal fallen through before some other notable free agents signed and resigned deals with other teams in the series. That we’ll never know.

  10. Wheldon was the reigning champ when he signed on to drive the 10 car. Dario won the title his previous year in Indycar when he signed with Chip. Tony was still one of the biggest names in the sport when he joined. I think we’ve become accustomed to seeing a big name pilot that car. Outside of Chip signing Montoya, which I’m surprised I never heard a single rumbling about considering their history together, I just don’t think there was a big splash to be had. I’m pleased Jones is getting the opportunity, but I agree, it’s not all that exciting on its face. I hope he young man thrives in the 10. I’m not a big Ganassi fan, but the series is better when the Chipster’s team is collectively strong.

  11. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    George…I couldn’t agree more with you and I also would have clearly voted for Alonso as ROY. I was also very disappointed when I learned that Brendon Hartley wouldn’t be coming to Indycar. Also please remember that Hartley was Chip’s second choice. Felix Rosenqvist was choice number one but he couldn’t get out of his contract in Formula E. Jones had a decent first part of his season but was really nowhere the second half. Rosenqvist has one year remaining on his contract so maybe this a one year deal for Jones…we shall see.

  12. James T Suel Says:

    I think Jones is a fine driver. However I agree with you on rookie of the year at the speedway. I think many may not understand all that goes into the pick for rookie of the year at the speedway. Alonso was as perfect as you could be in all categories.

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