Strategic lapse hurting quick VeeKay in Alabama

Strategic lapse hurting quick VeeKay in Alabama

He was the fastest in Saturday practice and showed his resilience on Sunday, but a great result did not come Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout’s way in the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix powered by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park, as the Dutchman concluded the third round of the 2024 NTT IndyCar Series in 17th place.



For years, Rinus VeeKay and Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama have formed a great combination. In 2021, aided by a chaotic opening lap, the 23-year-old Dutchman fought his way up from last to a stunning sixth place at the chequered flag. In 2022, he grabbed pole position and crossed the finish line in third. Following a hopeful start to 2024, with VeeKay eventually finishing eighth after the Penske’s disqualification at St Petersburg, the Dutchman and his team Ed Carpenter Racing were aiming for a strong result in Alabama.


VeeKay got off to a great start by setting a blistering pace in free practice on Saturday morning. As a matter of fact, the youngster drove his fastest time on the hard tyre, a fact that gave both the driver of the #21 Chevrolet and his team members a lot of confidence. Unfortunately for VeeKay, his superb practice form failed to translate into a strong position on the grid, as the single IndyCar race winner was plagued by a mechanical issue in qualifying preventing him from setting a competitive time. This forced him to settle for 27th and last place.


Starting from the back, VeeKay sliced through the pack in the opening laps of the 90-lap Indy Grand Prix in Alabama, as after five laps, the Fort Lauderdale resident had passed nine rivals to find himself in 18th place. However, a run-in at the start with one of his rivals was penalised by the stewards, resulting in VeeKay being forced to serve a drive-through penalty.


Despite these setbacks, VeeKay did not let himself down. Two excellent stints on the soft tyre put the ECR driver in contention for a top-ten finish, with VeeKay even briefly running in seventh place. Spectacular overtaking moves on Josef Newgarden and Romain Grosjean brought the fans to their feet and gave VeeKay the feeling that a good result was still on the line.


Relying on his sheer speed, VeeKay delivered one of his best IndyCar races to date, the youngster easily keeping up with the pace at the front and well on his way to his second top ten finish in three races. In fact, Linus Lundqvist, the driver who eventually finished third, was unable to match the speed of his Dutch rival from the halfway point of the race.



Sadly, a poor strategic decision brought an end VeeKay’s advance. Along with rival Josef Newgarden, the Dutchman was called in for a quick pit stop to avoid running out of fuel in the final stint, and the result was that VeeKay lost so much track position that despite a late full-course yellow and subsequent restart he was unable to improve to better than seventeenth place – still ten places higher than his starting position, but certainly not a reflection of the speed he had shown. VeeKay finished just 12 seconds behind winner Scott McLaughlin (Penske).


“A tough race,” said VeeKay from Birmingham. “I went from last place, P27, to seventh. Then we made the wrong decision as a team to go for a splash-and-dash. It cost us too much track position. A top-seven finish was definitely possible and it could have been a lot more with Lundqvist finishing third.”


“A very nice weekend was in the air after I set fastest time in Saturday morning’s practice,” continued VeeKay, “but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We were unlucky in qualifying and despite a fantastic race pace we leave Alabama a touch disappointed. However, we can be proud of the way we fought back. It gives us a lot of hope for the upcoming races as we have shown that we can compete with the guys at the front.”


“Now it’s time for the May race, the most important month of the year. We have two races, one of which is the famous Indianapolis 500. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel again and try to turn the great qualifying results of the past years into an unforgettable final result,” the young Dutchman concluded.


After back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park, VeeKay and co. will have a week’s rest before the battle resumes. On Saturday 11 May, the Sonsio Grand Prix will be held on the road course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Sunday 26 May.