Strong performance earns VeeKay solid 11th place
With a solid eleventh-place finish at the Gallagher Grand Prix, Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout has once again proven his mettle, as the 22-year-old Dutchman hauled himself up to the front in the 14th race of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series.
With limited resources at his disposal, the talented twentysomething must pull out all the stops in the 2023 season to guide his #21 BitNile Chevrolet into the spotlights. So far, the Dutchman has managed to produced one race after another with daring overtaking moves, but has gone unrewarded all too often, particularly in the summer months. The Road Course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, hallowed ground for one-time IndyCar race winner VeeKay, offered an opportunity to finish a little further up again.
After all, VeeKay has fond memories of the infield circuit of the famed oval. In his debut year in 2020, the Dutch-born driver took his very first pole position, and followed that up with his first victory in the spring of 2021. Sadly, poles and victories are not in the cards this season, as his car is simply not on the pace, but a strong performance was definitely a possibility.
This meant that VeeKay was disappointed starting 19th, as in Friday afternoon qualifying, the ECR driver had to settle for tenth in his qualifying group – not enough for promotion to the Fast Twelve. However, in the race, VeeKay managed to take the bull by the horns, as from 19th on the grid the driver of the gold-and-white #21 car quickly moved forward.
While famed drivers such as Josef Newgarden and Romain Grosjean made mistakes on the opening lap, VeeKay kept his cool in the chaos, passing six opponents immediately. By the end of the first lap, the youngster found himself in a hopeful 13th position, while a lightning-fast first stint on the soft tyre fitted after his first pit stop allowed the Dutchman to connect with the top ten.
Strong overtaking moves, including one on single Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, even took VeeKay into that coveted top ten. However, the ECR driver could not hold on to this spot, as his team only had a used set of tyres left for his final stint. And so, Ericsson flew back past shortly before the end, as VeeKay could only try to consolidate his eleventh-place finish, a tidy performance for ECR in its 2023 form. Fellow ECR driver Ryan Hunter-Reay crossed the finish line in 20th place, almost a minute behind his Dutch teammate.
“Finally a somewhat more positive result,” said an elated VeeKay from Indianapolis. “This time, we were able to continue the race pace that we showed in the last few races all the way across the finish line. I am satisfied with 11th and happy that for once things went normally, without any nasty setbacks. A top-ten classification was out of reach, Ericsson was simply too fast on his new tyres. Nevertheless, you won’t hear me complain.”
“Strategically, we made no mistakes,” the Dutchman continued before pointing back to his first appearance on the Road Course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “It felt a bit similar to that Indy GP in 2020, where I drove from 18th to fifth. We don’t have the pace for P5 right now, but this is undeniably one of my best results of the year. A good day, we could use that for a change.”
“We have to keep working hard to find pace again in the final races, but it’s very nice to go into the two-week mini-break with a positive feeling. After all, a little optimism never hurts. The next race is on an oval, the one at Gateway. With a fourth and a sixth place in 2020, I have already shown good things there. Finally, I want to express my appreciation to race winner, Scott Dixon. He has now won at least one race in 19 straight seasons, and in an ultra-competitive field like IndyCar’s, that’s really something special.”
The 2023 NTT IndyCar Series continues with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Illinois, where the green flag indicating the start of the race will be waved on Sunday evening, August 27, around 9:45 p.m. Dutch time.