|Jones wasn't going to win the title if his teammate didn't move over and let him pass on the last lap. It was a 'team' victory.|
Ed Jones and Carlin clinched the 2016 Indy Lights Drivers’ and Teams’ titles yesterday, in a dramatic season finale in the Indy Lights Series presented by Cooper Tires. Jones held the championship lead heading into the final race at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but slipped back to fifth on the opening lap. Taking fourth on the final lap, the Carlin man clinched the 2016 title, with Carlin also claiming the Teams’ championship spoils by 29 points over Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Jones started yesterday’s season finale from pole position with a seven-point lead over his only championship rival Santiago Urrutia. With tensions already high, the pressure increased as the first rolling start was aborted and the field were sent round to form again. Second time round Jones led the field into the first corner, but had the fast starting Zach Veach and Urrutia right behind him. With his championship at stake, Jones avoided contact and Veach and then Urrutia were able to get past. In the melee Kyle Kaiser also stole through, along with Jones’ teammate Serralles.
At the end of the first lap Serralles was fourth, Jones fifth and Alberico 11th. A full course yellow condensed the field after Garett Grist ran off track. At the restart Jones almost passed Serralles but didn’t quite make the move stick. As the race continued, Jones stood to finish vice-champion, with he and Urrutia tied on equal points, but Urrutia taking the title with more race wins.
The focus of the race moved to Serralles and Jones, with the pair yo-yoing as the race progressed. Jones would close up on his team mate only for Serralles to pull away. On the final lap, Jones took fourth place and crossed the line with enough points to claim the 2016 title.
Jones’ championship win means he also claims the coveted scholarship prize, valued at $1M to ensure entry in a minimum of three races in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series, including the prestigious Indy 500.
The 2016 champion commented, “It just feels absolutely amazing. Thanks to Mazda, Cooper Tires and Anderson Promotions for providing such an amazing series. At the start, Zach [Veach] took a gamble, and I think he knew that I had everything to lose and unfortunately that shuffled me down the pack. Then I was behind Felix; one lap I would be faster, then he would pull the gap a little again. I was able to pass him on the final lap and it just feels incredible to be standing here now as 2016 Indy Lights champion.
“To know that I will be able to line up on the grid for the 2017 Indy 500 is such an amazing feeling and a testament to the Mazda Road to Indy as a genuine motorsport ladder. It’s a great result for Carlin as well as a new team in America and I’m sure we’ll see them in IndyCar as well soon."
Trevor Carlin added, “Ed has done a fantastic job this year. He has been consistently strong for the last two seasons and I’m so pleased to see that rewarded with the title. The entire team, Ed, Felix and Neil have been an absolute pleasure to work with this year.
“Obviously I’m very proud of the work the team have done, not only this year, but over the course of the last two seasons. Colin [Hale] and the guys have pulled together to create a fantastic team. To challenge for the title in our debut season in America and to go one step further and clinch both drivers’ and teams’ titles in 2016 is an amazing achievement. I can’t wait to see what we can do together in 2017."