by Mary Champion
There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the appearance of two-time Formula One champion, Fernando Alonzo, in the Indianapolis 500. Alonzo will start fifth in the May 28 Indianapolis 500. However, it must be noted there are three other rookies in the Indianapolis 500 starting field for the first time. The other first-timers are Ed Jones, Jack Harvey and Zach Veach.
Ed Jones, the Mazda Road to Indy 2016 Indy Lights champion is running the entire 2017 Verizon IndyCar schedule for Dale Coyne Racing. He was still running at the finish of all five 2017 Verizion IndyCar Series races to date, with a top finish of sixth at Long Beach.
The 22-year-old Jones, who was born to British parents in Dubai, holds dual British/United Arab Emirates (UAE) citizenship and is currently living in Miami but considers Dubai to be his home. He is believed to be the first IndyCar driver that considers Dubai to be his permanent home to participate in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Jones began his racing career driving karts in the UAE at age nine. In 2011, he made the move to racecars, driving in the 2011 European Intersteps Championship, as well as racing in Formula Renault 2.0 and British Formula Renault.
Jones moved up to compete in the final round of the 2012 European F3 Open Championship and competed in the series full time in 2013, winning the FIA European Formula Three Championship with six wins and another four podiums. The following year he competed in the same series, moving to America to compete in the Mazda Road to Indy Indy Lights series in 2015.
Running the full Indy Lights Series in 2015, Jones finished third in the final point standings after scoring three wins and three poles. In 2016, he claimed the series championship with two wins and six poles.
Using the Indy lights as his stepping-stone, he has moved up this season to run the full Verizon IndyCar Series for Dale Coyne Racing.
Jones will start the “500” in the middle of the fourth row.
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Indy 500 rookie Jack Harvey is in an enviable position as he starts his first “500.” Other rookies and many veterans would gladly trade places with Harvey, as he will start his first Indianapolis 500 as a member of the six-car Andretti Autosport Team.
“To have the opportunity to do this with one of the best teams on the grid — a team that has won two of the past three races there – is more than I could have dreamed of,” the 23-year-old Brit exclaimed.
“I want to thank the whole Andretti Autosport team for this opportunity,” he added.
“Jack is a rising talent in open-wheel racing,” Andretti Autosport’s Michael Andretti said in a press release. “He’s had an impressive career in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder and the British F3 series and we’re really pleased to be able to give him a shot in an Indy Car at this year’s Indy 500.”
As many drivers do, Harvey started racing at a young age, beginning his racing career in karting at the age of nine.
From karts, Harvey moved into European Formula BMW and spent two seasons in that series before moving up to Formula 3 in 2011 and was crowned 2012 British Formula 3 champion. He then proceeded to spend the 2013 season driving for Lotus GP in the GP3 Series
Harvey moved to the U.S. in 2014 to race in the Indy Lights Series, driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He recorded four wins and 10 podium finishes that year to capture second-place in the season standings behind Gabby Chaves.
Harvey, in 2015, still driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, again finished second in the Indy Lights point standings with two wins, both at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in the Indy Grand Prix and the Freedom100, and six second place finishes.
He tested an Indy Car in at Sonoma in 2015 for Schmidt Peterson, but running the Indy 500 for Andretti Motorsport will be his first opportunity to drive in the Verizon Indy Car Series in a race.
He is slated to start 27th in the 2017 “500.”
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Stockdale, Ohio’s 22-year-old Zach Veach has been a racer in a hurry since he started racing go-karts at the age of 12. It was while driving karts that he was “discovered” by Sarah Fisher’s father, Dave Fisher.
Shortly after meeting Fisher, Veach was driving open-wheel Formula BMW cars.
“I was really lucky to have the Fishers help me along. Dave taught me a lot in karts and jump-started my career,” Veach said.
Veach quickly moved up the racing ladder and in 2010, at age 15, he was signed by Andrettti Autosport as a development driver, and moved from karting to USF2000.
Over the next four seasons, Veach climbed the Mazda Road to Indy Ladder driving for Andretti Autosport competing in USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights.
Veach suffered a hand injury early in 2015, putting him out for the season.
He returned to Indy Lights in 2016, driving for Belardi Auto Racing and finished fourth in the point standings with three wins and one pole.
Veach spent six years in the Mazda Road to Indy, competing in all three ladder series, scoring a combined 13 wins, 14 poles and 39 podium finishes.
In this, his rookie year in the Indianapolis 500, Veach feels honored to be driving for A.J. Foyt Racing.
“This is something I’m very appreciative of,” Veach said. “I’m a young American driver in the greatest American race, so to come here with a name like Foyt just makes it all that much more special. My goal coming to Indianapolis is to make Veach a historic name like Foyt, and this is the best place I can start that legacy.”
In addition to his racing career, Veach is a published author, writing a book entitled, “99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16.”
He is also active in a national anti-texting-and-driving campaign and has worked on the IndyCar Radio Network as an Indy Lights analyst and as a pit reporter during some Verizon IndyCar Series events.
Veach will drive car number 40 in the “500”, a non-traditional number for Foyt, but the number is in recognition of this being the 40th anniversary of Foyt’s fourth Indy 500 win.
Veach will start 32nd in the field. After having a hard crash on the final day of practice, the car could not be repaired for the first day of qualifying and his speed on the second qualifying day was slowest in the field.
(The 33rd starting car did not post a time or speed.)