VeeKay eliminated early on after crash in season opener

VeeKay eliminated early on after crash in season opener

He definitely had the pace, but luck was not on the side of Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout during the NTT IndyCar Series season opener, as the 22-year-old Dutchman was forced to retire early on the St Petersburg street circuit.



After a winter break of almost six months, VeeKay and his IndyCar rivals finally got to race again, and as ever, the battleground for the opening race of the year was the St Petersburg street circuit in Florida, currently the home race of Fort Lauderdale-based VeeKay. The Dutch driver, who again races with Ed Carpenter Racing this year, already has two consecutive top-ten finishes on his name in St Pete.


VeeKay’s practice results were more than encouraging, as the #21 BitNile Chevrolet easily proved to be able to compete with the best in the IndyCar field. VeeKay having recorded a sixth and third time respectively in the two practice sessions allowed him to consider himself one of the favourites for a position well up up the grid. However, during the all-important qualifying session, VeeKay was ostentatiously hampered by one of his rivals, causing him to fail completing his intended fast lap. As a result, the Dutch driver was left with nothing more than a very disappointing 24th place.



From that 24th spot on the grid, the Dutchman in his fourth IndyCar season was able to demonstrate his typical fighting spirit. His comeback started by paying attention amidst the chaos of seven rival competitors tumbling over each other on the opening lap, as VeeKay kept his cool and managed to stay away from of trouble. When the smoke cleared, the Dutch driver has already guided his gold-and-white car up to 18th place.


However, the IndyCar race director saw it fit to red flag the race to allow the debris to be cleared, so VeeKay and Ed Carpenter Racing decided on taking a different approach to the race, the team changing the tyres, swapping the soft rubber for the hard compound. This proved to be a bold but smart move, as some clever overtakes, VeeKay made his way to the front.


Shortly before the halfway point, the Dutch ECR driver found himself in 12th, not too far from the leading group. However, an overtaking attempt by Josef Newgarden pushed him onto the dirty part of the track, causing VeeKay to get off line and crash into the tyre wall like a passenger. Behind him, rivals Jack Harvey and Kyle Kirkwood were unable to avoid the stranded VeeKay, leaving both drivers to badly damaged his car. His comeback race was over.


“Bummer,” VeeKay said, looking back on the result from St Petersburg. “Josef came alongside and I moved off just a few inches from the racing line but there was so little grip that the car was simply uncontrollable. The speed was good up to that point. It was a good choice to go for an alternative strategy, as it allowed us to move forward at a rapid rate.”



“This one leaves a bad taste, though, especially considering the pace that we had in free practice. Besides that, you just want to finish the first race of the year. That’s good for your own confidence and that of the team, and at least it’s a result on the board. The positive side is that we were running well. The pace is there.”


The next IndyCar race will take place on Sunday 2 April next, when it is time for the first oval race of 2023. The PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway is scheduled to start around 18:30hrs Dutch time.