Ed Jones ran as high as second at a dramatic ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday before a hazard-filled race at the aptly-named Tricky Triangle conspired to drop him to a 17th-placed finish overall.
The 22-year-old Brit had qualified 11th for the race – the 14th of 17 outings in the fiercely-disputed 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series – at the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania oval.
Jones conceded some early ground but swiftly set about fighting back. He was up to eighth – duelling with IndyCar heavyweights Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves – by the time he made his second pit visit just past one-quarter distance.
As is frequently the case at in the US single-seater competition, the pecking order oscillated wildly as various issues and dramas brought out the yellow flags, sending drivers scurrying for the pits and playing havoc with strategy calls – and on this occasion, Jones did not enjoy the rub of the green.
The former European F3 Open Champion reached second place at one stage – picking off the likes of oval specialist Ed Carpenter and pole-sitter Takuma Sato along the way – but a mistake entering his pit box at his final stop relegated him to the tail of the field.
“Pocono Raceway certainly lived up to its nickname,” said the Dubai-born Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) protégé.
“It’s fast and quite a difficult track, but DCR had been really strong on circuits like that earlier in the season, so I was confident we would have a good idea of what we needed when we got there and I was really looking forward to it.
“Our plan was always to go conservative in qualifying, because looking at the bigger picture, there can be a lot of consequences for not a lot of gain – and it had been proved in the past that grid position is not necessarily one of the major factors at Pocono.
“Eleventh represented a solid place to start from and I was optimistic of being able to move forward, but unfortunately, it was a difficult race. The approach we took meant it was really hard to progress without errors from the cars in front, which made things challenging.
“That said, it was fun in parts; some guys were quite aggressive and there were a few crazy moves, so I was adjusting to that and we had a good run, but we were pretty unlucky with the timing of the yellows.
“We were still looking alright towards the end, but then I made a mistake at my last pit-stop and that cost us. It’s just frustrating, because I feel we should have come away with a decent result.”
Reigning Indy Lights Champion Jones was making his debut at the track, whereas 18 of his 21 rivals had competed before.
Jones was Immediately on the back foot following a spin and light contact with the wall in free practice.
As strong winds resulted in a number of incidents in qualifying, Jones outpaced championship leader Josef Newgarden and several other big names on his way to 11th.
Jones went on to take the chequered flag a disappointed 17th, and will be fired-up to bounce back quickly at round 15 at Gateway Motorsports Park this weekend.