VeeKay eliminated from promising position by subsequent race winner
Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout’s wasn’t allowed to end his challenging 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season with a big points haul, as the now 23-year-old Dutchman was run off the track while in a promising position at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Whereas in his first three IndyCar seasons, VeeKay could say that he was a regular in the fight for the coveted top-ten positions, the youngster endured a tougher time in 2023. His Ed Carpenter Racing team appeared not to have made the steps that the competition had found, and so VeeKay was often forced to suffer by having to settle for the minor placings.
While the team struggled, however, VeeKay himself came out on top. On several occasions, the driver of the #21 BitNile Chevrolet dragged his car to results that connoisseurs thought were impossible. 11th places in Texas, at the second Indy GP and at Gateway proved to be the highlights for a long time, with a 10th place in the Indianapolis 500 as his best result. Ed Carpenter Racing decided to intervene mid-season by replacing VeeKay’s then teammate Conor Daly with IndyCar veteran Ryan Hunter-Reay. The American appeared to be on the same page as VeeKay and provided similar feedback to the Dutchman.
Their collaboration along with VeeKay’s clever driving enabled ECR to secure a season-best sixth place in the penultimate race of the year at Portland. With Portland’s success in mind, VeeKay and his IndyCar competitors travelled to California’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the final 2023 round. The challenging road course has a reputation for being a tough circuit for ECR, but VeeKay didn’t listen as the talented twentysometing guided his car to a fine eighth in qualifying, which became a sixth thanks to other people’s grid penalties.
Unfortunately, VeeKay could not enjoy his strong starting position for long. Having correctly assessed the chaos at the first corner, VeeKay was nonetheless rammed off the track from fifth place by Scott Dixon, the Dutchman losing two laps as a result. In the remainder of the 95-lap race, he had to contend with an wayward machine due to its steering column having taken a big hit.
While VeeKay worked his way up to 18th place and won another place in the final standings of the IndyCar championship at the drop of the flag, Dixon of all people took the win. After all, the Kiwi veteran suffered no damage from the incident with VeeKay and was able to continue his way after serving his drive-through penalty.
So VeeKay concluded a challenging season with a 14th-place finish whereas his ECR teammates Daly and Hunter-Reay finished 24th and 27th respectively.
“Unfortunately, this final race was not as successful as last week’s,” VeeKay said from California. “And it had started so well – with P8, I had scored my best qualifying result on a road course in 2023 and I was able to start from sixth thanks to a couple of penalties.”
“A lot happened at the start. In the first two corners I managed to stay out of trouble until I suddenly got a tap from the side. Dixon came in from nowhere. The engine stalled, the steering was bent and I had to wait to be restarted, losing two full laps. In terms of a good result, that was the end of it, although I still finished the race. Because it was a crazy race, that eventually got me up to P18.”
“We had the pace to fight for victory here, but this result reflects the difficult season we have had. Of my four years in IndyCar, this was definitely the most difficult. Still, I am happy – I feel I have taken a step forward as a driver and can’t wait to get started for next season. In the last few weeks, the mechanics have worked extremely hard, everyone wants to turn next year into a success,” VeeKay concluded in fighting spirits.
The 2023 NTT IndyCar Series has come to an end, and following tradition, the 2024 season will kick off on the streets of St Petersburg, Florida, where the first race of the new year is scheduled on 10 March. Ziggo Sport will once again be the broadcaster in the Netherlands in 2024.