Bad luck robs VeeKay of fine result at Nashville
A fresh top-ten finish looked to be within his grasp, and even a podium finish looked likely, and yet Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout was forced to deal with bad luck during the Big Machine City Grand Prix in the streets of Nashville, ending the 14th round of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series in P12.
After a wonderful month of July that saw VeeKay record three top-six finishes, the IndyCar circus set off on its trip to Nashville, Tennessee. A difficult weekend seemed in the making as Ed Carpenter Racing for whom VeeKay drives the #21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet was trailing after the first practice session on the street circuit – until VeeKay, who announced a contract extension with ECR earlier this week, managed to turn the tide, the 21-year-old Dutchman going full two seconds faster in qualifying to put his car in a promising tenth position on the grid.
Prior to the race, Ed Carpenter Racing had doubts about the set-up with the hard Firestone tyre. VeeKay himself, however, had a good feeling about ‘the blacks’ and so it was decided to start on the hard tyre. After a few laps fears about the set-up proved unjustified, as VeeKay told over the radio that he had a good feeling in the car, helping him to strike during the restarts after several of no less than eight full-course yellows.
In typical VeeKay style, rivals were left for dead – at the first caution the Dutchman took two cars, while the restart after the third caution was crowned with two more successful overtaking moves while after the fifth FCY, the orange-coloured car with its Dutch driver shot away straight out of the blocks, so shortly after the halfway point VeeKay found himself up in sixth place, with more to come.
That did not happen, unfortunately. Shortly after a moment in which VeeKay missed his braking point due to a suspected gearbox problem and made a subsequent pit stop to make up for lost time, his rival Graham Rahal, who had spent more than twenty laps in the pitlane after a crash earlier in the race, suddenly found himself back on the track. Once there, Rahal proved unable to keep his damaged car out of the wall, the American blocking the way for VeeKay. This left the Dutchman with nowhere to go, as he crashed into Rahal’s stricken car.
Now a lap behind, VeeKay managed to resume his race while trying keep a cool head. As other drivers got involved in incidents, the Dutch ECR driver kept it on the road, earning himself a fine 12th place, but given the opportunities that arose earlier in the race, that failed to please the talented twentysomething. VeeKay did lift his points total to 300, now almost surpassing his own final tally of 2021.
“It was such a super good race”, VeeKay said from Nashville, “and then suddenly everything goes wrong. I'm very happy with my own performance, but I’m sorry it wasn’t possible to get a better result. Halfway through the race I was in front of Scott Dixon and he went on to win the race. That could have been me, but today I didn’t have the luck that you need.”
“In terms of strategy, I noticed that the soft tyre didn’t last particularly long. Therefore, I asked the team if I could start on the hard tyre and if I could use it more often during the race. The hard tyre turned out to be the best for us. It’s a shame what happened at the end, because we were super fast today.”
VeeKay highlights the course of events from his own perspective. “First I had to deal with locking brakes into turn 9. Then, after my pit stop, I ran into Rahal. I thought he was out of the race, but suddenly he was in front of me, straight after a left-hander. I didn’t see it coming, there wasn’t even a yellow flag. Because of this incident I lost a lap and with it, the chance of a podium finish.”
A red-flag interruption shortly before the end of the race handed VeeKay a break, as his drinks bottle failed to work during the race. This has made his race in hot Nashville quite a bit tougher. "I drank a litre of water during that red flag”, the Dutchman said, winking his eye. “But physically it was all good, I’d get back in tomorrow for a full IndyCar race!”
VeeKay does not have to do that, as the next race is still some time away. After an intense period of back-to-back racing weekend, the NTT IndyCar Series drivers will finally have a weekend off.
The next race, the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, will take place on Saturday, August 20. As soon as the green flag is waved, however, it is already Sunday in the Netherlands, the start taking place shortly after 00.00 hrs.