Jones Ready to Take It to the Streets in VP Racing Challenge Return

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

Considering his shining debut last year in the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, it’s not surprising to see Jagger Jones returning for another shot at it this week. And considering that second chance comes on the street course in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he has valuable racing experience in the recent past, it makes even more sense.

Jones, the 21-year-old grandson of racing legend Parnelli Jones and the son of five-time IMSA race winner PJ Jones, is returning behind the wheel of the No. 87 FastMD Racing with Remstar Duqueine D08 for the pair of 45-minute sprint races Saturday that are part of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend lineup.

In his VP Racing Challenge debut last fall at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – his first races ever in a prototype car – Jones sizzled. He claimed the pole position for both races, finished second in the opener and was running away to victory in the second race when his Le Mans Prototype 3 (P3) ground to a halt with two laps to go.

“I think I just got accustomed to it very well,” Jones recalled of his eye-raising IMSA debut. “I hadn’t done any sports car racing but it wasn’t too far from the Indy NXT or the USF 2000, the other formula car stuff I’ve done. I think I adjusted well and the driving was similar and, yeah, we were very fast that weekend at Road Atlanta.”

Unable to put a deal together for the 2024 season opener at Daytona in January, Jones and Remstar owner Remi Lanteigne remained in contact and an agreement was reached for St. Pete – in part because of Jones’ knowledge of the St. Pete street circuit. He’s raced there the past two years in junior open-wheel series including a podium finish in USF2000 in 2022.

“I’m very comfortable with that track,” Jones said. “I think the team was confident with me giving them a really good chance at two race wins, so they went ahead and did what it took to put me in the car for St. Pete this coming weekend.”

In addition to that track knowledge, Jones believes having a race weekend under his belt in the Duqueine will make him even better this time around. He now possesses a sounder understanding of multi-class racing and how to best utilize the Michelin tires.

“I feel like I’ve checked a lot of those boxes where I have a much better understanding going into St. Pete and kind of know what to look for in the car,” Jones said, though with this weekend his only guaranteed chance to race to date, he knows the pressure is on to perform at his best.

“I just gotta go out there,” he said, “and make the most of the opportunity.”

Twenty-Four Cars on St. Pete Entry List

Jones’ No. 87 is the only Duqueine among the eight P3 cars entered this week. Steven Aghakhani heads up the contingent of seven Ligier JS P320s after sweeping the overall and class wins at Daytona in the No. 6 MLT Motorsport Ligier.

There are 16 cars entered in the GSX class for GT4-spec machines. Luca Mars, driver of the No. 59 KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4, is the class leader after winning both Daytona races.

VP Racing Challenge practice and qualifying take place on Friday. The first 45-minute race starts at 10:55 a.m. ET Saturday with the second race at 3:45 p.m. that afternoon. Both races stream live on Peacock.