Rinus VeeKay fires up title battle with another double podium in Mid-Ohio
With yet another two podiums in the Cooper Tires USF2000, KNAF Talent First car racing talent Rinus VeeKay has closed the gap to championship leader Oliver Askew to only 13 points. At the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the 16-year-old youngster finished the first race on Friday in third. One day later, VeeKay finished second, his eleventh podium in thirteen races. "With only one more race to go at Watkins Glen, the title is still within reach. It’s not in my hands, however." VeeKay is realistic. "I want to congratulate my team Pabst Racing on achieving their first USF2000 championship for teams. I'm glad I've been able to do my part in this title!"
For Rinus VeeKay, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was another circuit he didn’t know. Where most drivers already had some experience, the KTF driver had to explore the track in the free training and found that it was not easy to pass on this circuit. Nevertheless, he was confident in qualifying, knowing that he had been in this situation before and still managed to race to the podium.
The first qualification proved him right, as VeeKay set the second quickest time. However, soon the damper came to this success. There had been no driver briefing for this event and the time-tracking strip, which was normally positioned on start / finish, was moved to another point before entering the pit lane. Rinus VeeKay wasn’t aware of this and drove on for too long. Therefore, despite protest from his team Pabst Racing, he was penalized with a two place demotion on the starting grid.
As a result, Rinus VeeKay didn’t start the first race in second but fourth. After a good start in which he was able keep his position, he immediately opened the hunt for his teammate Lucas Kohl who was running in front of him. On the sixth lap, the young Dutchman found a gap and took the third position. In two laps, he managed to close the gap to second and drove 4.5 seconds away from Kohl. In the final phase of the race, the safety car brought the field back together due to an incident on the track, but on the restart the top five retained their positions. VeeKay drove the final laps of the race in the slipstream of Parker Thompson, but could not pass him. Thus, VeeKay finished third and scored his tenth USF2000 podium.
After the race, racing winner Oliver Askew and three other drivers appeared to have made a jump start. The USF2000 organisation punished the three drivers with a 17-second time penalty, similar to a drive through penalty. Askew, who had a conditional penalty for a jumpstart earlier this season, received a penalty of ten points. A very discretionary decision, because if he had the same punishment as the other three offenders, VeeKay would now lead the USF2000 championship.
The KNAF Talent First racer initially scored the fastest lap on Saturday in qualifying for the second race, but saw Parker Thompson improve his lap in the last minute, with Askew in third.
In the second race, VeeKay held his second position. He took off from Askew, who was under pressure and was passed by two opponents. The duo created a gap to the chasing pack, but Thompson had new tires, while VeeKay was on a used set and wasn’t able to attack.
After an incident, the safety car entered the track and evaporated the lead of the two drivers. During the restart, VeeKay was under pressure, but he kept his cool and again pulled out a gap to his pursuers. Rinus VeeKay finished second, taking his eleventh podium in thirteen races, a unique performance from the young Dutchman in his first full season in the motorsport.
VeeKay was delighted to score two podiums, but was upset about the decisions the organisation made. "When a punishment is given for the same offense you must be consistent with it," said a disappointed VeeKay.
Everything now will depend on the final race on the legendary circuit of Watkins Glen International, which will take place on September 3th. The gap the KNAF Talent First driver has to Askew is still 13 points, so everything is still possible with a win of 30 points. But for VeeKay to secure the title in the Cooper Tires USF2000 will also require a little luck.
Dutch fans came to Mid-Ohio with a Jumbo shopping bag, which VeeKay was happy to sign.